A week ago we discussed the claims that the UK government showed "breath-taking laxity" in allowing the sales of chemicals capable of being used to make nerve agents such as Sarin to Syria. It may come as a surprise to no one but last night the UK government admitted for the first time that - under a clear breach of international protocol - it issued five export licenses to two companies between July 2004 and May 2010. As The Daily Mail uncovered, these sales were made at a time when Assad was strongly suspected to be stockpiling the chemical weapons that are now at the hub of an international crisis. As one leading MP noted, "the government has some very serious questions to answer." The UK firms delivered sodium fluoride to a Syrian cosmetics company for what they claim were legitimate purposes; but intelligence experts believe President Assad’s regime uses such companies to divert chemicals into its weapons program. Last night the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills refused to answer questions regarding how much sodium fluoride was bought and sold – or which companies were involved, but as former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind exclaimed, "in the case of these licenses being awarded to sell sodium fluoride to Syria it sounds as if some serious errors were made."
Between July 2004 and May 2010 the Government issued five export licences to two companies, allowing them to sell Syria sodium fluoride, which is used to make sarin.
The Government last night admitted for the first time that the chemical was delivered to Syria – a clear breach of international protocol on the trade of dangerous substances that has been condemned as ‘grossly irresponsible’.
The sales were made at a time when President Bashar Assad was strongly suspected to be stockpiling the chemical weapons that have caused an international crisis.
The UK firms delivered sodium fluoride to a Syrian cosmetics company for what they claim were legitimate purposes. But intelligence experts believe President Assad’s regime uses such companies to divert chemicals into its weapons programme.
"So we are looking at late 2010 for the British supplies of sodium fluoride reaching Syria. The Government has some very serious questions to answer."
Last night the BIS refused to answer questions regarding how much sodium fluoride was bought and sold – or which companies were involved.
Intelligence expert Richard Kemp, a former member of the Government’s COBRA emergency committee, said last night: "President Assad would undoubtedly have diverted legitimately exported supplies of sodium fluoride in order to make chemical weapons."
"He would have absolutely no qualms about doing this, and his practice was well known to British diplomats and our intelligence agencies. In this light, it is grossly irresponsible of BIS to have approved these licences from 2004 to 2010."
Last night a senior scientist condemned the sale, as Syria is one of just five countries to have refused to sign protocols against the use of chemical weapons.
"Given Syria’s refusal to sign up to the OPCW’s regulations I cannot see any justification for these sales. Have we learned nothing since the 1990s? Back then sodium fluoride was sold by the UK to intermediaries buying the chemical for Iraq where Saddam Hussein gassed his own people."
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