Report of German Aid for Libyan Jets Is Reinforced : Der Spiegel Carries Photos Purported to Show Use of Aerial Refueling Technology From Munich Firm

Times Staff Writer

A national newsmagazine published photographs Sunday to reinforce its assertion that a West German firm is furnishing air-to-air refueling technology to Libya that will give Col. Moammar Kadafi’s fighter-bombers range enough to reach Israel.

Der Spiegel printed four photographs, taken from a videotape, purporting to show a French-built Mirage jet of the Libyan air force nosing into a refueling drogue from another plane.

The magazine said that Intec, a Munich-based company, had helped convert U.S.-built, Libyan-owned C-130 and Boeing 707 transport planes into refueling tankers to service the attack jets.

Israel Within Range


“The fighter jets are now able to fly to and from Israel,” the magazine’s story said.

Der Spiegel also published a letter it said was from Intec to a technician involved in the assistance project.

The magazine made its initial assertion about Intec last week, and Bonn’s chief government spokesman, Friedhelm Ost, promptly denied the allegation, saying that Intec had sent two fuel tanks to Libya but that these could be used only on the ground and not in the air.

Ost has several times lately been forced to change his public denials of West German companies’ involvement in Libyan projects, notably those concerning a chemical weapons plant that Washington charges is being built at Rabta, south of the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Libya insists that the plant is intended to produce only pharmaceutical chemicals.

3 Years in Libya

Der Spiegel reported in its current edition, which will be on the newsstands today, that technicians recruited by Intec have been working in Libya for the last three years, and the published letter it said was from the company to a technician was dated Dec. 20, 1985. The letter referred to the “operation in North Africa.”

According to the magazine’s account, Washington told the Kohl administration about Intec’s arrangement with Libya in May, 1988. But it was only after the furor over the Libyan chemical complex surfaced that the West German government said Intec was under investigation for possible breach of export laws.

In its current edition, Der Spiegel also reported that a state-owned East German company supplied steel parts for the Libyan complex at Rabta.

Quoting intelligence sources and others, the magazine said that the state firm, VEB Metalleichtbau Kombinat, was aware that the Libyan plant is intended to produce chemical weapons.

Approached by Barbouti

According to the magazine’s account, the East German firm was originally approached by Ihsan Barbouti, a London-based, Iraqi-born entrepreneur whose defunct Frankfurt company is under investigation for allegedly having supplied goods and services to the Rabta factory. The magazine said the East German company furnished 10 steel construction elements weighing 800 tons each for Rabta.

East German officials knew that “these civilian materials were intended for totally different purposes,” Der Spiegel said, adding that in 1987 the East Germans tightened controls on exports of materials that could be used to make chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, a West German parliamentary panel is scheduled this week to examine charges that West German scientists might be involved in an Iraqi government program to make biological weapons.