Pentagon Says Libya Has Stopped Construction at Suspected CW Plant

Article excerpt

THE PENTAGON said in late June that Libya had ceased construction work at a suspected underground chemical weapons facility at Tarhunah 40 miles southeast of Tripoli. After months of intense diplomatic pressure by the United States and Egypt, including threats by the Clinton administration to use force to stop the underground facility from becoming operational, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in late May that Libya would not build a chemical weapons plant at the site

Despite Gadhafi s pledge, the United States remains concerned Libya will continue its efforts to establish an indigenous chemical weapons capability. Following Mubarak's announcement in late May that Egyptian inspectors found all three tunnels at the site empty, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the United States would "continue to look very closely. . . at this facility and at other spots in other locations in Libya where we believe he may intend to build a chemical weapons operational facility."

The Libyan government has adamantly denied that the plant is for chemical weapons production, saying the facility will be used for irrigation and water distribution projects or as an ammunition depot. Gadhafi has claimed that the United States faked the intelligence photographs shown to President Mubarak by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry during an April visit to Egypt.

According to the Pentagon, the Tarhunah facility is only the latest example of Libya's ongoing efforts to acquire a chemical warfare program. In 1988, Libya completed construction of a chemical plant at Rabta that produced "at least 100 metric tons of blister and nerve agents" during three years of operation, according a Pentagon proliferation report released in April. …