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Chemical weapons are a sensitive topic in West Germany. The history of Germany - which helped pioneer the development of poison gas, then experimented with the technology in World War II concentration camps - makes it almost impossible for the issue to be discussed here without stirring strong emotions.

However, it also tends to make Germans a target for criticism - even though the sources of chemical weapons proliferation can be traced to many countries around the globe.

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In the wake of the ``Libyan affair,'' one United States commentator dubbed the Rabta chemical plant near Tripoli ``Auschwitz-in-the-sand.''

Such references infuriate West German officials - who are proud of being one of the few countries in the industrialized world which vow never to produce or store chemical arms.

One West German university student, questioned about the controversy, was well informed about the investigations now taking place.

``I know many countries were involved,'' he says. ``It just seems to me that we Germans - because of our past - have to somehow do better than everyone else.''

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