US intelligence chiefs warned the Government that Muammar Gaddafi was plotting to assassinate president Ronald Reagan, Irish state papers from 1981 and 1982 have revealed.
In a confidential briefing on December 10 1981 as Ireland pursued lucrative trade deals with the dictator, officials from the embassy in Dublin and US department of state revealed the threat.
A subsequent note for Department of Foreign Affairs chiefs, including the ambassador to Rome, said American agents identified and confirmed 17 terrorist training camps in Libya, including one named "17th April" for preparing international operations.
The report said about 5,000 people were put through training in the last year and about 15,000 in the last decade. "The US has evidence that Gaddafi is now planning to use some of these personnel for attacks on Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the US (in the last mentioned, against President Reagan himself)," the briefing said.
Mr Reagan, who was shot and survived an assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jnr on March 30 1981, wrote in his memoirs about being warned of the Libyan threat. Tensions between the countries were severely strained at the time, with the Gaddafi plot surfacing after Mr Reagan ordered two Libyan war planes shot down over the Mediterranean in August 1980.
"A few days after the incident over the gulf, security people obtained secret information indicating that Gaddafi had advised some of his associates that he intended to have me assassinated. So, it was back into my iron vest whenever I was out in public," Mr Reagan wrote in his memoirs. "Subsequently, security people obtained what they considered highly credible information that not only I, but (vice president) George Bush, Cap Weinberger, and Al Haig were targeted by Libyan hit squads that had been smuggled into this country."
The intelligence was recorded as embassy staff relayed to the Government the extent of Gaddafi's sponsorship of terrorism in Africa and further afield. It went on to say that US diplomatic personnel were at risk and that a plot to kill the US ambassador to Italy earlier in the year was foiled. "The mastermind was Ali Hijasi in Libyan intelligence and the attack was to be supervised by a 'guard' (in fact working for Libyan intelligence) at the Libyan People's Bureau in Rome," the note said.
Libya was implicated in the attempted assassination of the US Charge in Paris, it also said.
The record of the threat to Mr Reagan was itself very matter of fact. No other information was recorded about the suspected assassination plot, nor does the note mention the reaction of the Irish diplomats.
The meeting was called by US authorities to provide a briefing on their position on Libya as Ireland continued to build trade links with Gaddafi's regime. The Americans did not raise the question of any restrictions on Irish trade with Libya. It coincided with the withdrawal of 1,400-1,500 US citizens from Libya and the US government "invalidating" passports for travel to the north African state.