Libya:
Tarhuna and Relted Issues


Tarhuna is a small city south of Tripoli. The United States accused Libya of building a chemical plant in Tarhuna capable of manufacturing chemical weapons and there was talk about the best way to destroy the chemical plant, there was even talk about using nuclear weapons to do it. But, things changed. The following documents tell the rest of the story:
Following is what reported by CNN concerning Tarhuna's plant:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon Thursday unveiled a sketch of what it believes is a chemical weapons plant Libya is building. The structure, dug into a hillside, is purportedly designed to withstand an air strike.
Experts believe that it would take a direct hit from a nuclear warhead to put the plant out of commission. However, the Pentagon maintains that the United States ha the ability to destroy the plant before it is completed -- and the U.S. military has threatened to do so. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi once stopped work on a similar plant under U.S. threat of an attack.
U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said U.S. intelligence has strong evidence showing that the underground plant, near the Libyan city of Tarhuna, is designed for war uses. But Libya says the current project is a desert irrigation project, not a chemical weapons plant, and says the United States is making a scapegoat out of Libya now that the Soviet Union is gone. It offered Thursday to have talks about the U.S. allegations.
The Egyptians, trying to defuse the situation and to prevent the destruction of Tarhuna, asked the US and Libya to let the Egyptians investgate the existence or the non-existence of the chemical plant in Tarhuna. Following is the text of the interchange at the United States' State Department briefing conducted by Nicholas Burns on the subject of Libya's chemical plant and an Egyptian inspection report (Africa on Line):
We're very pleased that President Mubarak shares the very strong concerns of the United States about Libya's chemical weapons program. We're very pleased that Egypt has taken steps to address this problem, and we commend the efforts of President Mubarak and the Egyptian Government to look into it.

Obviously, we can't comment substantively on the reported inspection by the Egyptian experts, because we have not been briefed about the details -- the contents of their report, but we look forward to being briefed. We certainly understand the comment by President Mubarak that there were no chemical weapons at Tarhunah. We never said there were chemical weapons at Tarhunah. We've never claimed that. We've never claimed it's an operational facility. What we have said -- what Secretary Perry has said and what others have said -- is that there's very good reason to believe that this facility is under construction for the purpose of harboring a chemical weapons program, and that is the purpose of the very mysterious construction underway at Tarhunah.

We remain skeptical that any inspection of the facility at Tarhunah -- still under construction -- that any inspection could establish that it will not be used for chemical weapons purposes. Unfortunately, we believe that the Libyan Government is intent upon building a chemical weapons capability.

We think that it wants to locate a chemical weapons program at Tarhunah. I think the Egyptian President and Government have done a very good thing by sending inspectors there. We look forward to their report. But we do believe that the root of the problem is the intent of the Libyan Government to use this facility for nefarious purposes.

Q: Are you saying the Egyptians were hoodwinked?

MR. BURNS: Not at all. I'm saying the Egyptians did a very good thing by shining a very large international spotlight on this program, and perhaps Mr. Qadhafi -- Colonel Qadhafi -- will think twice now about trying to make this particular site operational. If that is the effect of the Egyptian action, then the Egyptian action will have been quite productive. But I think Colonel Qadhafi should understand that we're going to continue to look very closely, using all means at our disposal, 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.

Q: You're saying there's other places in Libya where you believe he's constructing .

MR. BURNS: I'm just saying we have a broad gaze as we look upon Libya, and we're not going to limit our gaze to one spot. He should know that it's not going to be possible for him to carry out under the cover of darkness or in some secret location or in the side of a mountain a chemical weapons development facility or an operational facility. He won't get away with that.

Q: Do Egypt's close relations with Libya concern the United States at all?

MR. BURNS: Egypt is a neighbor of Libya. Egypt has a relationship with Libya. We understand that relationship. We have an ongoing conversation and have had for more than a decade with the Government of Egypt about that relationship. But I do want to limit my comments in that respect to, I think the very positive actions taken by President Mubarak.

Q: You haven't heard anything from the Egyptians so far, in specifics, in terms of diplomatic communications?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe we have, and that limits me from commenting on exactly what the Egyptian inspectors saw. We are very interested in that, and we'd like to have a full report -- I'm sure we'll get it -- from the Egyptian Government.
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