The Daily Mail confirmed on Saturday the United Kingdom not only approved export licenses to British companies to send sodium fluoride to Syria, but the chemical was indeed delivered. The government previously denied Syria received the chemicals.
Last Sunday, The Daily Record reported Business Secretary Vince Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) approved the export licenses last January, about 10 months after the Syria civil war began. The chemicals were to be used for industrial purposes. The licenses were revoked six months later only after the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions. Hair tests proved sarin gas was used on 1,400 civilians, including almost 500 children. This evidence has President Obama pressuring Congress to approve military action in Syria.
The government claimed no chemicals were sent to Syria before the license was revoked:
The shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna said: “It will be a relief that the chemicals concerned were never actually delivered.
“But, in light of the fact the Assad regime had already been violently oppressing internal dissent for many months by the beginning of 2012 and the intelligence now indicates use of chemical weapons on multiple occasions, a full explanation is needed as to why the export of these chemicals was approved in the first place.”
But Members of Parliament (MP) are not satisfied with the answer and they do not think the citizens of the UK approve:
Labour MP Richard Burden told the Huffington Post UK: “I think many people reading the news that the UK government approved licences for these chemicals will be highly concerned. In 2012 the country was facing severe internal repression and was the focus of international humanitarian concern.
To raise more questions, The Jewish Press reports the recipient of the chemicals is unknown.
But now The Daily Mail is reporting the chemicals did in fact make it to Syria:
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 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.
Thomas Docherty MP, a member of the Common Arms Export Controls Committee released this statement to the Mail:
‘These are very disturbing revelations uncovered by The Mail on Sunday regarding the provision of sodium fluoride to Syria. At no time should we have allowed President Assad’s regime to get its hands on this substance.
Previously we thought that while export licences had been granted, no chemicals were actually delivered. Now we know that in the build-up to the Syrian civil war, UK companies – with the backing of our Government – were supplying this potentially lethal substance.
‘While the last export licence was issued in May 2010, these licences are obtained prior to manufacture and the industry standard is for four to five months to pass before the chemicals are delivered.
‘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.’
A BIS spokesman said they cannot name the two UK exporters who received the sodium fluoride because of confidentiality issues.