The State Department said Tuesday Libya's full-scale production of chemical warfare weapons can still be halted by the refusal of Western countries to supply the necessary technical assistance.
Spokesman Charles Redman, brushing aside Libyan claims that the new plant south of Tripoli is to produce pharmaceutical products, said flatly, "It is a CW (chemical warfare) facility."He said the U.S. assessment, pieced together from numerous intelligence sources, remains that the plant "is on the verge of full production," but that cannot occur without further contributions from more technologically advanced countries.
"Our aim," he said, "is to deny additional technology, materiel and expertise. Production could not be sustained without additional input."
Tuesday, NBC News interviewed a man identified only as "one of the Europeans who has worked on the Libyan project" who sold a map and documents about the facility to the network and said it is a poison gas plant.
The man said the Libyan government told workers they were building a "technical center" but, "When you see the highly sophisticated electrial equipment, the special sewage systems, the purifications plants . . . you must come to the conclusion it is not just a chemical plant. It is a secret plant, a fabrication of chemical weapons."
However, ABC News, quoting senior Pentagon officials, said Adm. William Crowe, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, opposes a U.S. strike against the Libyan plant unless there is conclusive proof that it is producing chemical weapons.
In West Germany, documents obtained by the government indicated that German companies alleged to have played a key role in the construction of the Libyan factory routed exports through Austria and France to circumvent export laws.
In an official report published Tuesday, West German authorities said it was not yet clear whether components exported to Libya were used to produce chemical weapons or pesticides. The report said five West German companies and 38 people were under investigation in connection with the affair.
U.S. concerns, Redman said, have been relayed to other governments, including West Germany, and, "We are convinced that the German government is taking the issue seriously."
He added that the United States was calling on all governments to deny Libya the required technical help to move into full-scale production.
The issue is to come up this week in Paris when the French government holds a review conference of the 1925 Geneva Convention banning the use of poison gas as a military weapon.