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Tuesday, August 25, 1998 Published at 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK


World: Africa

US 'reveals' nerve gas evidence

Sudanese officials examine the rubble of the factory

An anonymous US intelligence official has reportedly revealed evidence of nerve gas production in the Sudanese factory hit by American missiles last week.


The BBC's James Wilkinson looks at the difficulties of finding evidence on nerve gas production
He also linked the plant to Iraq and to the Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden who is accused of masterminding the 7 August bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The official told reporters that a soil sample from immediately outside the Shifa plant had shown traces of a substance called EMPTA, which has no commercial uses but is a key ingredient of the nerve gas VX.

He said the sample was "obtained by clandestine means".

He said the substance got there "either through airborne emissions or spillage from the manufacturing process."

A US State Department spokesman said that the Sudanese plant "very well may have been producing pharmaceuticals," as the Sudanese Government has said, but "that in no way alters the fact that the factory also was producing precursor elements."

The intelligence official said production of EMPTA could have taken place in a small part of the large chemical plant and evidence may be difficult for international inspectors to find.

No UN action

The question of whether or not the factory was producing chemical weapons' components was briefly discussed at the United Nations on Monday night.


The BBC's Rob Watson: No-one on security council prepared to take on Washington
The Security Council decided to take no action on a Sudanese request that the UN set up an investigation into the factory's use.

The US said it could not see the point of such an inquiry.


Michael Binyon, diplomatic editor of the Times: An awkward issue for the Security Council
Peter Burleigh, US Deputy Ambassador to the UN, said: "I don't see what the purpose of the fact-finding study would be. We have credible information that fully justifies the strike we made on that one facility in Khartoum."

US diplomats say Washington does not trust the Sudanese not to tamper with evidence, and does not want to share its intelligence information with members of the UN.

Less militant line

However despite the opposition to its request Sudan seems to be looking ahead to improving relations with the US, after earlier recalling all its diplomats from Washington and its ambassador from London.

The speaker of the Sudanese parliament, Hassan Turabi, said that American foreign policy was "pragmatic" and he did not think it would take too long for relations to improve.

He nonetheless condemned the US attack as "most criminal, most savage" and said: "all the Sudanese now actually see the United States, generally, as the incarnation of the devil, of evil."



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