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August 1998 
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MER - Washington - 30 August:

The Americans pride themselves on legalisms. They are always using the terms "justice", "legality", "morality", "world order". Well, now they have a few chances to put their actions where there words are.

There is substantial credible evidence now that the British, almost always working closely with the Americans on such matters, paid dissident groups to try to assassinate the leader of Libya as recently as 1996. If there is going to be a trial about the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1988, what about trials about the U.S. bombing of Libya in 1986 and the British (with probably CIA knowledge if not help) assassination attempt against Qaddafi in 1996?

And now Sudan. Around the world few believe the Americans; and even 4 of 10 Americans think the Clinton team is at least partially "Waging the Dog". An impartial international investigation is now imperative. A trial in The Hague probably should result. And at the least American payment for damages -- actual and consequential -- probably should result from that.

OK United Nations. Here's your opportunity, not to mention responsibility. What you going to do about all this? Your own credibility -- what little is left of it -- is on the line once again. This damning article about the Sudan bombing is not from the Arab press, or the Islamic Press, or even the Third World Press -- its from America's top ally, the British Press.




By Hassan Ibrahim, Martin Bright, Shyam Bhatia
and Ed Vulliamy in The Guardian, Sunday, August 30

American claims to have "irrefutable" proof that the bombed al-Shifa pharmaceuticals factory in Sudan was producing the deadly VX nerve agent were seriously shaken this weekend amid mounting evidence of a massive failure of US intelligence.

An Observer investigation has revealed a catalogue of US misinformation, glaring ommissions and intelligence errors about the function of the plant. The US claims are based on soil samples allegedly taken from the bombed factory.

The Observer has now established that the factory was - as the Sudanese have claimed - originally designed, built and put into operation as a factory producing medicines.

In an interview with The Observer, Henry Jobe, the American chemical engineer who designed the plant for a Sudanese businessman, Bashir Hassan Bashir, said he was surprised when he saw the footage of the bombing on TV and the official statements that followed because he had designed the plant as a pharmaceuticals factory.

Asked whether his design could be used to make chemical weapons, he said: "No, we didn't intend a dual use for it. We didn't design anything extra in there. The design we made was for pharmaceuticals. It's possible it could have been changed. I don't know about it. We never discussed one second about any kind of chemical [weapons] operations."

Mr Jobe's testimony casts further doubt over US statements made immediately after the bombing. One senior intelligence source had claimed: "We have no evidence or have seen no products, commercial products, that are sold out of this facility."

Mr Jobe, 76, who worked as a consultant in Indonesia, Egypt and Jordan after retiring from the giant American pharmaceuticals corporation, Merck, said he was surprised by the statements. "That is misinformation, because it was designed for it."

In the Jordanian capital Amman, an engineer involved in the construction of al-Shifa also challenged Washington's claims. Ahmad Salem, who supervised the building of the plant between 1993 and 1997, said: "There is no chance that this factory could be used to produce chemical weapons, it was designed to produce medicine for people and animals."

Germany's Ambassador to Sudan also disputes the United States, according to reports in the German press yesterday. Just hours after US missiles destroyed the plant, Ambassador Werner Daum sent a letter to superiors in Bonn disputing the American justification for the attack, the reports said.

"One can't, even if one wants to, describe the Shifa firm as a chemical factory," Daum wrote in the letter, quoted Saturday by the newsmagazines Focus and Der Spiegel, and the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

The only proof provided so far by the Americans to justify their attack is based on a soil sample allegedly collected from near the plant.

American officials, who have refused to make the sample available to a wider body of international experts, say traces of a VX precursor called Empta amount to "irrefutable" evidence that the nerve agent was being manufactured there.

Sudan's Interior Minister raised questions about the source of the soil sample. He said most of the area around al-Shifa was paved with only a tiny amount of open land used for the cultivation of rose bushes.

"The American claim is totally unfounded," the Minister said. "If you look around, you will not see any soil in the immediate vicinity of our factory premises."

US credibility has been further dented by Western scientists who have pointed out that the same ingredients are used for chemical weapons and beer, and that mustard gas is similar in make-up to the anti-clogging agent in biro ink. It has also been pointed out that the cherry flavouring in sweets is one of the constituent parts of the gas used in combat. Empta also has commercial uses not linked to chemical weapons.

Last week the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons revealed that Empta could be used for legitimate commercial purposes, including the manufacture of fungicides and microbial agents. Experts add that the chemical structure of Empta also closely resembles Fonofos, an insecticide on sale in Africa.

New questions have emerged as American intelligence sources move to less and less credible positions. On Friday, a Pentagon official said: "There may have been better places to go. That doesn't mean it was the wrong place to go"' The source of the American intelligence also appears dubious. Tales of chemical weapons manufacture in Sudan have long been current among the opposition National Democratic Alliance, but they have never been confirmed.

Links between the factory and Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden - who has been indicted for the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania - are also beginning to look increasingly shaky. Earlier this year the factory was sold to a Sudanese businessman, Salah Idris, who is not known for his Islamist sympathies and has no known links to bin Laden.



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