Gaddafi overtures cut no ice with White House

The US seems mightily unimpressed by a new offer from the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, to permit international inspection of a suspected chemical- weapons plant near Tripoli, which Washington vows will never enter service, even if it has to use military force to prevent it doing so.

In a CNN interview marking the tenth anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's bombing of the Libyan capital, Col Gaddafi denied that the site, inside a hill at Tarhuna, 35 miles the capital, was being developed as a secret, well-nigh invulnerable site to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.

The US had produced no concrete evidence to support its claims, he said. None the less, Libya was ready to permit international experts to examine the site, albeit under certain conditions which Col Gaddafi would not specify.

But such equivocation will not satisfy Washington which, despite some scepticism from allies including Egypt and France, has gone to unusual lengths to single out Tarhuna as a menace to global security - complete with a warning by William Perry, Defense Secretary, that the US was prepared to attack the plant if necessary to prevent its completion. This is likely within 12 to 18 months, according to intelligence estimates here.

Although Pentagon officials say the US will first seek to halt the plant by diplomatic means, they leave no doubt that the military threat is real. Countering claims that, short of nuclear weapons, the Pentagon had no means of knocking out so well protected a target, they point to ground- penetrating bombs like the 5,000lb GBU-28, said to be capable of piercing 100ft of soil or concrete 22ft thick.

Washington, moreover, has attacked Libya before, as the setting of the interview underlined. The Libyan leader spoke in the ruins of his house destroyed when F-111s bombed Tripoli on 16 April 1986, in reprisal for an attack at a Berlin nightclub which killed two US soldiers. Mr Reagan said the US had firm evidence of "direct" Libyan responsibility.

More details of Tarhuna emerged at a Pentagon briefing last week on chemical- weapons proliferation, including an artist's impression of the site based on satellite photos. It shows a partially excavated and terraced desert hillside, with roads leading to tunnels bored into the foot of the mountain.

Once complete, officials say, Tarhuna will be able to produce 110 tons of poison and nerve gases over three years, as much as at Rabta, a previous suspected Libyan chemical-weapons plant that was closed after a fire in 1990. "We have absolutely no doubt ... the new facility is intended to make chemical weapons," Patrick Hughes, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said.

But domestic politics also play a part. Anxious to fend off Republican criticism that he is neglecting defence, Mr Clinton wants to show his administration is responding to the new challenges of a post-Cold War world, above all to the threat posed by proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Even so, Col Gaddafi spoke almost warmly of him in the interview, calling Mr Clinton "a man of peace", unlike his predecessors in the White House.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - OTE £40,000

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Contracts / Sales Administrator

£19500 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Knowledge of and ability to use...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence