BONN (Jan. 10)
West Germany says it is investigating allegations that German firms helped Libya build a plant to manufacture chemical weapons.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl said Monday that his government would discuss the matter in the coming days with a view toward preventing dangerous exports to areas of tension.
But Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher declared that Bonn would oppose American attempts to saddle his country with responsibility for helping Libya build a factory the Reagan administration insists is producing poison gas.
Nevertheless, official sources here confirmed Tuesday that a Hamburg company is under investigation.
It is a subsidiary of Imhausen-Chemie, based in the southern city of Lahr, which Washington has singled out as the main source of supply to the alleged weapons plant in Rabta, Libya.
The West German authorities have cleared the Lahr company. The probe of its Hamburg affiliate is being conducted by tax officials rather than by chemical engineers.
Bonn was embarrassed by television pictures from Libya showing a container labeled “Siemens” at the site of the alleged weapons plant. Siemens, a West German firm, is a major producer of chemicals.
HELPED IRAQ PRODUCE GAS
Television reporters said no one knew where the Siemens container came from. The Libyan authorities had invited a group of journalists to inspect the plant.
The journalists were not allowed to enter the facility, and they reportedly were not convinced of authorities’ insistence that it was not producing poison gas.
Die Welt reported Tuesday that an Iraqi businessman involved with the Libyan poison gas project fled his office in Frankfurt last summer, for fear of becoming the target of Israeli or other hit squads.
The man, identified as Ihsan Barbouti, is said to have coordinated international efforts to help the Libyans build their factory. He allegedly dealt with Japanese, British, Swiss, Danish and East and West German companies.
The Iraqi’s company, IBI, is currently in liquidation. It had a subsidiary in Hong Kong that might have recruited experts or contracted for material and equipment for the gas plant, Die Welt said.