U.S. Rebuffs Libyan Offer for Chemical Plant Inspection

The United States on Friday rejected Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s offer to allow a one-time inspection of his chemical plant in the Libyan desert, which the United States claims is being used to make chemical weapons.

Israel is concerned that Gadhafi might want to deploy chemical weapons against the Jewish state.

State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said a “one-time inspection,” the timing of which would be determined by Gadhafi, would not allow the United States to determine conclusively that the plant was being used to produce only pharmaceuticals, as the Libyan strongman has maintained.

A chemical weapons plant, she said, “could easily be modified to appear as a legitimate industrial chemical plant such as a pharmaceutical or a fertilizer facility.”

“All traces of C.W. production could be erased from the plant on extremely short notice,” she added.

Gadhafi made the offer earlier in the week through Italian intermediaries, as well as through the media, a State Department source said.

Israel may now be facing an additional threat from the Libyans.

The New York Times reported Sunday that a West German company is helping Libya develop the capacity for air-to-air refueling of its French-made warplanes. This would enable the bombers for the first time to fly distances as far away as Israeli territory.

The Times also quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying that a West German company, Imhausen-Chemie, is helping the Libyans build the chemical weapons plant, which is located in Rabta, 40 miles south of Tripoli.

The German firm’s president, Dr. Jurgen Hippenstiel-Imhausen, has denied any connection to the plant, according to the Times. The paper quoted him as citing the fact that the firm’s founder, his wife’s grandfather, was half Jewish.

“We would not supply something like this to our enemy,” he was quoted as saying.

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