BONN — The Bonn government has secured evidence that West German firms helped Libya build an alleged chemical weapons plant, government sources said Wednesday.
"As of yesterday, we are in possession of evidence which shows that the American allegations are not groundless," one source told Reuters news agency.
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 it 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 authorities. The firm has denied having anything to do with the plant.
But a government source told Reuters: "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 the site would 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.
Customs authorities in Cologne said Wednesday that they had opened formal criminal investigations of IBI Engineering, "among others." IBI has not commented to the press.
The Bonn government has urged the United States to produce 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 Wednesday that Bonn had been right not to act on what he called speculation against West German companies.
But one Western diplomat noted that as more allegations were being made within West Germany, the tone of government statements and the media was changing "from indignation to realization."
The news magazine Stern, in a report released Wednesday, said it had obtained evidence showing that Imhausen supplied Libya "everything that was needed to build a chemicals factory."
In addition, Stern said, Barbouti set up the Frankfurt branch of IBI purely for a Libyan contract. The subsidiary was then liquidated.
Stern named eight firms, one in East Germany, one in Vienna and six in West Germany, that it said had worked with Libya.
On Tuesday, the West German government approved plans to tighten the control of exports and manufacture of nuclear and chemical products that could be used as weapons.