UK approved several chemical exports to Syria

Five export licences were approved for the sale of more than 4,000kg of sodium fluoride between 2004 and 2010

UK business secretary Vince Cable: said there was no evidence that chemicals exported from the UK had been deployed in Syrian weapons programmes. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

UK business secretary Vince Cable: said there was no evidence that chemicals exported from the UK had been deployed in Syrian weapons programmes. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Thu, Sep 12, 2013, 01:00

British officials approved the export to Syria of more chemicals that could be used to make sarin, a powerful nerve agent, than previously acknowledged, it has been revealed.

Five export licences were approved for the sale of more than 4,000kg of sodium fluoride between 2004 and 2010.

They were on top of exports approved last year of sodium fluoride and potassium fluoride under licences but subsequently revoked on the grounds they could be used as precursor chemicals in the manufacture of weapons.

The five licences were revealed by UKbusiness secretary Vince Cable in a letter to Sir Robert Stanley, chairman of the House of Commons committee on export controls.

Mr Cable told Mr Stanley in a letter released yesterday: “These licences all predate the conflict in Syria. They were issued to two UK exporters for dispatch to two Syrian companies.”

He added: “I am confident that each application was properly assessed to determine end use and that the exports were for legitimate commercial purposes, namely cosmetics and healthcare products. The volumes of sodium fluoride covered by these licences are consistent with commercial use.”


No evidence
Mr Cable said there was no evidence that chemicals exported from the UK had been deployed in Syrian weapons programmes.

Mr Stanley has now asked Mr Cable to disclose the names of the British companies that exported, and the Syrian companies that imported, the chemicals. He has also asked the business secretary to provide full details of the cosmetics and healthcare products “for which the sodium fluoride exported under these licences was apparently going to be used in Syria”.

Mr Stanley last week asked Mr Cable to explain why the government approved export licences previously acknowledged in light of the statement by UK foreign secretary William Hague to the Commons committees that the government would not issue export licences “which might be used to facilitate internal repression”. – (Guardian service)