Iran Denies It Intends to Produce Chemical Weapons
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ The Iranian Foreign Ministry said today that it never planned to purchase chemicals from a West German company to produce poison gas, the nation’s news agency reported.
The official Islamic Republic News Agency, monitored in Nicosia, quoted an unidentified ministry spokesman as saying the allegations were ″false, biased and followed particular political propaganda goals.″
The spokesman ″categorically denied reports on Iran’s intention to purchase chemical materials for manufacture of chemical weapons,″ and accused U.S. and European media of making up the story.
Prosecutors in West Germany said Thursday they had opened a criminal investigation of Rheineisen Chemical Products, which contracted to deliver to Iran more than 250 tons of thionyl chloride. The chemical can be used to make mustard gas.
A company official, Mojtar Ashtari, said Thursday night in an interview with the West German TV network ZDF that Rheineisen had no indication the chemical would be used to produce poison gas. He said the shipment was halted and would be returned to Bombay, India, were it originated.
IRNA said the Iranian spokesman also denied that the West German government had summoned an Iranian diplomat in the case.
The West German Foreign Ministry said it had asked Iran to recall an unindentified diplomat after receiving information from Washington that the man allegedly was involved in the deal. But the diplomat left before a formal request was made.
The Iranian spokesman said the diplomat’s tour of duty had ended more than a month ago and that he had returned to Tehran, according to IRNA.
Sources in Bonn, Germany, identified him as Seyed Karim Ali Sobhani and said he had worked for the Iranian Embassy there since September 1987.
The Iranian spokesman said the case amounted to rumors ″in line with Washington’s open hostility towards the Islamic Republic,″ said IRNA.
IRNA said the United States had worked in close cooperation with Iraq, Iran’s foe in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war.
It said the spokesman accused ″certain″ European countries of supplying Iraq with chemical weapons.
The spokesman said the chemical sale reports were intended to divert attention from Iraq’s chemical attacks on its Kurdish population and recent efforts to resettle them outside their traditional northern mountain homeland.
In March 1988, the Iraqi government attacked the Kurdish town of Halabja with chemical weapons and scores of civilians were killed or wounded.