BONN (Jan. 19)
Chancellor Helmut Kohl deplored the role played by West German companies in building a chemical weapons factory in Libya and promised Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres that he would put an end to it.
Peres, who is also finance minister, is on a four-day official visit to Bonn. He was received by Kohl in the chancellor’s office Wednesday evening.
Kohl’s government came under fierce attack in the Bundestag on Wednesday for ignoring persistent reports, from its own intelligence sources, of German participation in building a Libyan poison gas factory.
The government conceded this week that it knew of such suspicions as early as August 1987.
Wolfgang Schauble, a minister in the chancellor’s office, told the Bundestag, however, that the government had no evidence it could present in court until Jan. 4 of this year.
Peres told reporters after his meeting with Kohl that he was impressed by the seriousness with which the chancellor regarded the Libyan matter.
“He brought up the issue right at the beginning, and he promised to do all he could to put an end to the German help in building the Libyan factory,” Peres said.
“He was fully aware of the danger to Israel and of the historic dimensions of this matter,” the vice premier added.
ISRAEL SUMMONS ENVOV
In Jerusalem meanwhile, Foreign Minister Moshe Arens summoned the West German ambassador, Wilhelm Haas, to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.
He expressed Israel’s “deep concern” over reports that German firms have equipped Libya with the materials and technology to manufacture chemical weapons.
The envoy was asked for clarification from Bonn of reports that German firms may have helped Syria and Iraq build chemical weapons facilities, as well.
Israel also wants to know if Germany has provided the Libyan air force with in-flight refueling capabilities. This would enable Libyan jets for the first time to strike targets in Israel.
In the course off the Bundestag debate, Schauble admitted that German intelligence reports on the Libyan plant were confirmed by fresh information from the United States last August.
The Americans pinpointed the plant at Rabta, about 40 miles south of the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
But Schauble continued to argue that there was no justification at the time to inform the public on the basis of anything less than solid evidence.
He admitted, however, that the government now accepts the American assertions that Libya has been building a chemical weapons plant, that West German companies were substantially involved in its design and construction, and that they supplied it with equipment and material.
Initially, the Germans had claimed that Washington was unable to produce evidence to substantiate its information.
Norbert Gansel of the opposition Social Democratic Party charged that the government is only willing to admit what has already come to light. He accused the Kohl regime of lacking the political courage to stop Libya from building the plant.
PROSECUTORS TAKE ACTION
Raf Lambsdorff of the Free Democratic Party, junior partner in the coalition government led by Kohl’s Christian Democratic Union, warned that the government’s credibility had been heavily damaged.
He called for swift measures to repair the situation, including legal action against the companies involved.
Proceedings have already been opened by the state prosecutors in Munich and Frankfurt against companies that helped build the Libyan plant.
The Frieburg prosecutor has taken action against Imhausen-Chemie, a chemical company in the southwestern city of Lahr. It is widely believed to have been the most deeply involved German firm.
(JTA correspondent Hugh Orgel contributed to this report.)