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Company Denies Involvement In Libyan Poison Gas Factory

February 11, 1989

FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ A West German company today denied charges by a U.S.-based Jewish foundation that it provided chemicals for a Libyan plant that U.S. officials say is designed to make chemical weapons.

″These allegations are categorically untrue,″ said Hans-Joachim Nimtz, a spokesman for Degussa AG of Frankfurt.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, located in Los Angeles, accused Degussa of supplying chemicals to the plant in Rabta, Libya.

The United States has accused Libya of building the factory to make chemical weapons. Libya has said the plant will manufacture pharmaceuticals.

Degussa once owned 42.5 percent of the Degesch company, which manufactured the lethal gas used to exterminate Jews interned at Auschwitz during World War II, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said.

″It is incredible that Degussa, which as a major shareholder in Degesch, the company which produced Zyklon B, should once again contribute to a genocidal mission,″ said Rabbi Daniel Landes of the center on Friday. ″We urge the Bonn government not to release these chemicals or any chemicals to Libya which in any way can be turned into an agent for a new Final Solution.″

He was referring to the Nazi policy of killing Jews.

Nimtz said the company had delivered chemicals to a fertilizer factory in Libya since 1983, but that it was more than 600 miles away from the disputed chemical plant.

Referring to the wartime connection with Degesch, Nimtz said: ″Not one Degussa official was ever convicted of war crimes. The Degesch officials were executed.″

Customs officials on Feb. 3 temporarily halted a Degussa chemical shipment to Libya to determine whether export licenses were required.

Nimtz said at the time that the chemical, hexamethylene tetramine, could not be used to produce poison gas and did not require an export permit.

He said today he expected the chemical to be released for shipment by next week.

″We have always delivered this chemical straight to (the Libyan city of) Bengazi,″ Nimtz told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. ″In the form we deliver it, it can only be used to make fertilizer.″

Another company official, who asked not to be identified, said Degussa delivers the same chemical to Israel.

″We have nothing to do with Rabta and we are not the target of any criminal investigations in connection with it,″ Nimtz said.

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