Revealed: 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.
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.”
Mark Bitel of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (Scotland) said: “The UK Government claims to have an ethical policy on arms exports, but when it comes down to practice the reality is very different.
“The Government is hypocritical to talk about chemical weapons if it’s granting licences to companies to export to regimes such as Syria.
“We saw David Cameron, in the wake of the Arab Spring, rushing off to the Middle East with arms companies to promote business.”
Some details emerged in July of the UK’s sale of the chemicals to Syria but the crucial dates of the exports were withheld.
The Government have refused to identify the licence holders or say whether the licences were issued to one or two companies.