Probe Confirms German Role in Iraq's Chemical Weapons Buildup

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

MORE details have emerged on the indictment of 11 German businessmen charged with illegally exporting plant and equipment to produce chemical weapons in Iraq. The public prosecutor in Darmstadt revealed scant information at the time of the March 12 indictments. But according to press reports, the office said last week the accused were former employees of WET GmbH, Karl Kolb GmbH, and Pilot Plant GmbH, a Karl Kolb subsidiary that is being liquidated. Total value of alleged exports was 30 million marks (about $18 million).

The investigation, which includes information from more than 300 witnesses, supports the allegation that Pilot Plant delivered four chemical production facilities to Iraq, said a prosecution statement. The prosecution alleges that the facilities were designed to produce chemicals for warfare, such as mustard gas. "We assume the accused knew the purpose of the plants," a spokesman for the prosecutor's office said.

An internal government report on illegal weapons exports, whose findings were published in Sunday's Die Welt newspaper, says the United States had tipped Bonn off at the beginning of 1984 that Iraq was developing a chemical weapons program and alleged that it had ordered equipment for production of nerve gas from Karl Kolb. This was looked into in March 1984, but no confirmation was found, the report says.

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The founders of WET GmbH planned a bomb-producing factory for Iraq, says the Darmstadt prosecutor, and concluded the project with the help of another German company. The founders were apparently able to hide essential details about the project from their employees.

WET also allegedly delivered a facility to Iraq specifically designed to screw together 122-millimeter missiles. The charges against WET are supported by a confession of a former manager of the company, Peter Leifer.

The internal government report reveals other weapons-related deliveries to Iraq in which German companies were allegedly involved. Die Welt says the report states that about 20 German companies helped outfit a plant to manufacture gun barrels. German firms also helped construct a technical center for research and testing of weapons. Contrary to widespread media reports, German companies did not extend the range of the Iraqi Scud missiles, the internal government document asserts. Israeli experts who dis mantled the Scuds found no Western parts.

Meanwhile, the public prosecutor's office in Stuttgart said last week it will not investigate employees of Daimler-Benz in connection with delivery of transport vehicles for Iraqi Scud missiles. The prosecutor, which had launched a surprise search of Daimler-Benz offices, said there was no cause for suspicion.

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