Home > Middle East, The Politics of War > Britain sold nerve gas chemicals to Syria 10 months after war began.

Britain sold nerve gas chemicals to Syria 10 months after war began.

FURIOUS politicians have demanded Prime Minister David Cameron explain why chemical export licences were granted to firms last January – 10 months after the Syrian uprising began.

Men search for survivors amid debris of collapsed buildings
Men search for survivors amid debris of collapsed buildings
REUTERS/Nour Fourat

BRITAIN allowed firms to sell chemicals to Syria capable of being used to make nerve gas, the Sunday Mail can reveal today.

Export licences for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride were granted months after the bloody civil war in the Middle East began.

The chemical is capable of being used to make weapons such as sarin, thought to be the nerve gas used in the attack on a rebel-held Damascus suburb which killed nearly 1500 people, including 426 children, 10 days ago.

President Bashar Assad’s forces have been blamed for the attack, leading to calls for an armed response from the West.

British MPs voted against joining America in a strike. But last night, President Barack Obama said he will seek the approval of Congress to take military action.

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

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

Yesterday, politicians and anti-arms trade campaigners urged Prime Minister David Cameron to explain why the licences were granted.

Dunfermline and West Fife Labour MP Thomas Docherty, who sits on the House of Commons’ Committees on Arms Export Controls, plans to lodge Parliamentary questions tomorrow and write to Cable.

He said: “At best it has been negligent and at worst reckless to export material that could have been used to create chemical weapons.

“MPs will be horrified and furious that the UK Government has been allowing the sale of these ingredients to Syria.

“What the hell were they doing granting a licence in the first place?

“I would like to know what investigations have been carried out to establish if any of this
material exported to Syria was subsequently used in the attacks on its own people.”

The SNP’s leader at Westminster, Angus Robertson MP, said: “I will be raising this in Parliament as soon as possible to find out what examination the UK Government made of where these chemicals were going and what they were to be used for.

“Approving the sale of chemicals which can be converted into lethal weapons during a civil war is a very serious issue.

“We need to know who these chemicals were sold to, why they were sold, and whether the UK Government were aware that the chemicals could potentially be used for chemical weapons.

“The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria makes a full explanation around these shady deals even more important.”

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