MANNHEIM, West Germany — A controversial factory in Libya damaged by fire last week was designed solely for making chemical weapons, West Germany said Thursday after an official investigation.
The public prosecutor's office in Mannheim also said in a statement that a West German businessman was indicted on charges he helped build the Libyan plant, which the United States has insisted produced chemical weapons.
Juergen Hippenstiel-Imhausen, former head of the Imhausen-Chemie chemical company, was charged Thursday with violating West Germany's export laws and with tax evasion.
Also Thursday, a government official said Libya had stopped payments to West German firms and interrupted trade, asserting that West German intelligence was involved in the fire. West Germany denied the accusation and issued a formal protest about the suspension of payments.
Mannheim prosecutor Peter Wechsung charged that Hippenstiel-Imhausen had a "decisive role" in the planning and construction of the Rabta complex, about 60 miles outside Tripoli.
Court officials said the trial may begin in the summer.
Wechsung said the businessman sent Libya "documents on production" as well as "measuring and regulating instruments" to be used at Rabta. He said investigators had concluded that the plant was "solely intended" to produce poison gases.
Libya has said the plant was only making pharmaceuticals.
Wechsung also said that West Germany's federal police had created a special "Rabta" investigative unit of 20 officials.
Speaking to reporters in Mannheim, Wechsung said about 3,000 files containing documents, plans and other material had been confiscated in the investigation and that statements were taken from more than 200 witnesses.
Hippenstiel-Imhausen resigned as head of the company a year ago and was arrested Oct. 5.
A number of West German companies were investigated last year after the United States charged that German firms had helped build the plant. Only Hippenstiel-Imhausen has been arrested.
West German Ambassador Joerg Helmer went to the Libyan foreign office in Tripoli "to express our displeasure" with the Libyan actions, said a government official in Bonn. The official said Libya had also barred a ship carrying Libyan oil from reaching its destination in West Germany.