Libya is building a large underground storage complex to protect its arsenal of chemical weapons from the kind of aerial attack the allies inflicted on Iraq, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
The newspaper, quoting unidentified U.S. officials and congressional sources, said Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was building a network of tunnels and bunkers with the assistance of German companies.The existence of the underground complex was first disclosed last month in reports over German television station ZDF. The station said German companies were providing laser technology and sophisticated measuring instruments.
Those reports also said the underground arsenal was intended to store both chemical and nuclear weapons.
The Libyan news agency Jana denied the report about the underground facility, calling it "completely untrue."
U.S. officials would not say where the underground complex is located, but a Times source with access to intelligence reports indicated it was near a chemical weapons production plant at Rabta.
That above-ground factory, which was built with the help of a German chemical company, was reported to have been destroyed in a fire a year ago, but U.S. officials have said the plant is still operating and that the fire reports were a hoax.
One U.S. analyst said air attacks on Iraqi military installations during Operation Desert Storm prompted Gadhafi to avoid provoking the United States and to stash his chemical weapons underground, the Times said.
"What he saw during the first two weeks of the war scared the bejesus out of him," the analyst said.
"He honestly believes that when we're done with Iraq, the (American) fleet will make a left turn at Libya and rid ourselves of another terrorist regime."