British MPs demanded an explanation from the government on Monday for the fact that it granted licenses to export to Syria chemicals that could be used to produce nerve gas. The licenses were granted just before the start of the Syrian civil war.
Export licenses for sodium fluoride and potassium fluoride were granted in January 2012. Both substances “could also be used as precursor chemicals in the manufacture of chemical weapons,” according to a report published by the House of Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls in July.
Angus Robertson, a Scottish National Party MP, told RT that the issue was raised in the House of Commons on Monday after the licensing had been publicized over the weekend.
“Defense ministers had to explain why it was that the UK would even consider granting an export license,” Robertson said.
Both sodium fluoride and potassium fluoride can be used in the production of the neurotoxic gas sarin. Large doses of sarin can lead to paralysis, loss of consciousness, convulsions and respiratory failure, and death.
“This is why they are included on the Australia Group chemical weapons precursors list and are listed in Annex I of Council Regulation 428/2009, meaning a license is required for their export from the EU,” the July report said.
Oliver Fry, a spokesperson for the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, told RT: “We issued licenses for sodium fluoride and potassium fluoride. The exporter and recipient company demonstrated that the chemicals were for a legitimate, civilian end-use, which was for metal finishing of aluminum profiles used in making aluminum showers and aluminum window frames.”
It remains unclear who was the recipient of the chemical shipments.
“The export itself did not take place, so the chemicals did not make their way to Syria,” Robertson added. “The UK rescinded the export licenses when the EU told the UK to do it… Frankly, the problem is that the UK was prepared to grant to an export license in the first place.”
RT, an official news agency of the Russian Republic, cited several sources describing PM David Cameron rushing to the Middle East follwoing the “Arab spring,” eager to sell British military equipment to potential new customers.