UK confirms sale of chemicals by its firms to Syria

These may or may not have been used in the production of sarin.

Written by PTI | London | Published: September 8, 2013 6:59:57 pm

Britain has for the first time acknowledged that UK firms were allowed to export deadly chemicals to Syria,allowing the Bashar al-Assad’s regime to produce nerve gas sarin,which was allegedly used in an attack that killed nearly 1,500 people.

The Department for Business,Innovation and Skills (BIS) granted a number of licenses to specialist firms allowing them to deliver sodium fluoride to Syria before the current conflict and European Union (EU) sanctions.

The licences allowed the sale of the chemical for commercial use in cosmetics and healthcare products,and there is “no evidence that the chemicals were used in weapons programmes”,a spokeswoman for BIS was quoted as saying by the London Evening Standard.

Britain allowed firms to sell chemicals for 6 years to Syria capable of being used to make sarin,thought to be used in the attack on a rebel-held Damascus suburb which killed nearly 1,500 people,including 426 children on August 21,the report said.

Export licences for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride were granted even months after the bloody civil war in the middle-eastern country began.

Sarin,a nerve gas that is hundreds of times deadlier than cyanide,is considered one of the world’s most dangerous chemical warfare agents. It works on the nervous system,over-stimulating muscles and vital organs,and a single drop can be lethal in minutes.

The United States and France have said the deadly chemical was used in the attacks of August 21 in the Damascus neighbourhood of Ghouta that left hundreds of civilians dead or injured.

The chemical export licences were granted by Business Secretary Vince Cable’s Department for Business,Innovation and Skills January 2012,10 months after the Syrian uprising began.

They were revoked six months later,when the European Union imposed tough sanctions on Assad’s regime.

However,a spokesman for the Department of Business,Innovation and Skills (BIS) defended the sale of the chemical to Syria,saying the amount was “commensurate with the stated end use in the production of cosmetics and there was no reason to link them with Syria’s chemical weapons program.”

The BIS refused to release the names of the two UK exporters for reasons of commercial confidentiality.

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