BONN — The Bonn government has secured evidence that West German firms helped Libya build an alleged chemical weapons plant, government sources said today.
"As of yesterday we are in possession of evidence which shows that the American allegations are not groundless," one source said.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz gave Chancellor Helmut Kohl a list in November of West German firms that Washington says helped Libya build the plant at Rabta, near Tripoli. Libya insists the plant will be used to produce medicines.
The first company named by the United States, Imhausen-Chemie, was cleared last week in an initial inquiry by West German finance authorities. The firm has categorically denied having anything to do with the plant.
But a government source said, "Imhausen will not be able to extricate itself from the matter now."
The source said it was still unclear if Imhausen had been involved directly or through intermediaries in the construction of the plant, and whether the firm knew it could be used to build chemical weapons.
The government sources said the evidence they now have appears to support reports in the West German and U.S. media that Imhausen and IBI Engineering, a Frankfurt firm owned by Ihsan Barbouti, an Iraqi living in London, were involved.
The Bonn government has urged the United States to give more evidence to back up its charges of widespread involvement by West German firms in the Rabta plant.
Kohl, who has criticized Washington for what he called a concerted anti-German media campaign, repeated today that Bonn had been right not to act on what he called speculation against West German companies.
"In a law-abiding state one cannot base one's work on speculation. That in my view is completely unacceptable," Kohl told a news conference.
In The Hague, a private newsletter for diplomats, Media Monitor, said Dutch intelligence officials knew more than two years ago of Libyan plans to build a chemical arms plant in Rabta.
They learned of the plans when a Dutch businessman began seeking bids for the plant in Western Europe, it said.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said Dutch intelligence had known for some time that Libya was building a plant for chemical products. He would not say whether it was known that chemical weapons were involved.
Media Monitor said the Dutch businessman had been told he would receive compensation for a business the Libyans had nationalized only if he helped Tripoli obtain contracts for the design of a chemical weapons plant.