Secretary of State George Shultz, stepping up the U.S. campaign against Libya, urged the world community Saturday to prevent radical governments from supplying chemical weapons to terrorist groups.
"The threat is a real one," Shultz told representatives of 141 nations gathered at UNESCO headquarters in Paris for the opening of an international conference on chemical weapons. "Some governments which have been known to sponsor terrorism now have sizable chemical-weapons capabilities."Shultz did not mention Libya or any other nation by name. But diplomatic sources said his remarks clearly were aimed at Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi's government, which has a long record of supporting Middle Eastern and other guerrilla organizations.
"Terrorist groups could be tempted to shift, without warning, to use of chemical weapons for dramatic political and media attention," he said.
"A nightmare for all, of course, would be the combination of ballistic missiles, chemical warheads and biological weap- ons in the hands of governments with histories of the conduct of terrorist violence."
Shultz also rejected any linkage between chemical and nuclear disarmament during the five-day conference. Some Arab and other developing nations are pressing for rich states to cut their nuclear arsenals as a condition for poor countries to swear off chemical weapons.
"International efforts in this area should not be made contingent on other difficult arms control issues, such as nuclear proliferation," Shultz said.
Since he arrived Thursday, Shultz has lobbied delegates to join in U.S. pressure on Gadhafi to close down a chemical weapons plant Washington says Libya is developing at Rabta, 35 miles southwest of Tripoli.
In Tripoli, Gadhafi proposed direct talks Saturday with the United States, the Libyan news agency JANA said. The Libyan strongman said he hoped talks might be possible after President-elect George Bush takes over Jan. 20.
But Gadhafi warned that if the United States was not prepared to conduct peaceful negotiations and give up what he called "state terrorism," there would be no choice but continued confrontation, even if it lasts for "a million years."
A senior U.S. official in Paris said Shultz recently had considered the possibility of direct talks with Gadhafi but that no decision had been made.
"There's nothing new. It has been talked about by the secretary. It's been talked about by the department in the last few days," the official said.
"We do have (indirect) means of communication. We have used them in the last few days. The problem is not communication. It is Libyan policies."
Also Saturday, Shultz met with West German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher. They decided that experts from both countries would meet in Washington next week to assess reports West German companies were involved in the Rabta factory.
West Germany has criticized Washington for charging that West German companies helped Libya build a chemical-weapons plant.
Diplomats said Shultz's failure to publicly criticize Iraq, whose use of chemical weapons on ethnic Kurds sparked the idea of the conference, dismayed Iranian delegates.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati asked the conference to condemn Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government for its use of mustard gas and other chemical weapons during its eight-year war with the Tehran government.
"If the international community wishes that governments abide by values and principles, it is high time that those respecting these commitments be appreciated and those violating them be punished and condemned," Velayati said.
But Hussein in a speech Friday said the Bagdhad government never would renounce "the means to assure its security."
French President Francois Mitterrand asked conference delegates not to try to be "a court of justice" by condemning individual states.
Mitterrand organized the meeting to strengthen the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibiting chemical warfare and to speed up a chemical-weapons ban under discussion at the 20-nation disarmament conference in Geneva for two decades.
On Friday, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze said the U.S. downing of two Libyan jet fighters over the Mediterranean Sea last Wednesday and Washington's claims of Libyan chemical-weapons production had "poisoned" the atmosphere at the conference. Shultz and Shevardnadze are scheduled to meet on Sunday.