In 2012 the EU halted British corporates’ sale of UK-licensed supplies of sarin gas ingredient to Syria
A reader has just drawn our attention to reports that, although Syria is one of only five countries who have refused to sign protocols against the use of chemical weapons, UK companies supplied sodium fluoride, with government–issued export licences issued in May 2010. The last British supplies of sodium fluoride reached Syria late that year.
Sodium fluoride is a ‘key ingredient’ in the nerve agent sarin, which scientists at the Porton Down proved – after testing items of clothing recovered from the scene – was used in the chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21st.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) also admitted issuing licences for the export of sodium fluoride and potassium fluoride to Syria in January 2012 before revoking them several months later, following EU sanctions, but refused to say how much sodium fluoride was sold – or which companies were involved.
Professor Alastair Hay, a toxicology expert at Leeds University, told The Daily Mail: “The Government’s approval of sodium fluoride sales to Syria during a period when it was widely suspected the regime was stockpiling dangerous substances is deeply disturbing”.
MP Richard Ottaway, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said:
“Any sensible person would be concerned if an ingredient of sarin gas was exported from the UK to Syria”.
He thought that the issue should be brough before House of Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls.
Last word: “The Government is confident that UK export controls continue to be among the most stringent in the world.”