BONN, West Germany (AP) _ Despite warnings from the United States, the government continued to give sensitive defense contracts to a Munich company after Libya bought control of the firm, a news report says.
Libya bought controlling interest in the Telemit Electronic Co. in 1979, Norddeutsche Rundfunk’s ″Panorama″ television magazine reported Tuesday.
It said the company specializes in the development of sophisticated military intelligence and communications equipment, including a laser system to measure military target distances.
The company helped outfit Libya’s intelligence network in the 1970s, the report said.
West Germany’s Defense Ministry continued to give military contracts to Telemit even after it knew that Libya had taken over majority control of the company, the program alleged.
The contracts included electronic equipment for West Germany’s Leopard tank, it said.
The government also allowed the company to deliver sophisticated electronic gear to both Iran and Iraq during the Persian Gulf war, Panorama said.
Panorama said the United States ″expressed its concern over the West German-Libyan connection″ in the early 1980s. But the government ignored concerns that Libya could gain access to sensitive government projects through its association with the company, the program said.
It said the company was protected by West German intelligence agencies, which used it to gain information about developments in the Middle East.
Winfried Dunkel, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, told the program that military contracts have been suspended until the company is restructured to return it to complete West German control.
He acknowledged that the company ″is owned by several holding companies controlled by Libya.″
Dunkel said the company had been given military contracts for years, but said none of the contracts involved secret or highly sensitive technology.
He said the Defense Ministry in the mid-1980s demanded that the company ″ensure that no influence could be made by the holding companies on the firm’s management.″
But he said the recent allegations that West German companies had been involved in the building of an alleged poison gas factory in Libya had prompted the ministry to order the contract suspensions.
The Bonn government was slow in acknowledging and launching investigations into those allegations, which the U.S. government had pressed through news media disclosures at the beginning of the year.
Horst Jungmann, a member of the opposition Social Democratic Party in federal Parliament, told Panorama of Telemit Electronics:
″The government has known for a long time that the company is 100 percent owned by Libya. It has received technical know-how from the military that could have been sent on to Libya.″