LONDON, July 9 Britain said on Wednesday it was
likely that chemicals which British firms had legally exported
to Syria in the 1980s had been used to manufacture nerve
agents, including sarin gas.
In a written statement to parliament aimed at setting the
historical record straight, Foreign Secretary William Hague said
Britain had been reviewing records of dual use chemicals
exported and now believed that some of them had been diverted to
Syria's chemical weapons programme.
"From the information we hold, we judge it likely that these
chemical exports by UK companies were subsequently used by Syria
in their programmes to produce nerve agents, including sarin,"
Faced with the threat of U.S. air strikes last year, Syria
promised to dismantle its 1,300-tonne chemical weapon stockpile
after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack on
the outskirts of the capital, Damascus.
The statement detailed three separate exports between 1983
and 1986 of "several hundred tonnes" of dimethyl phosphite and
trimethyl phosphite, both of which Britain said could be used in
the manufacture of nerve agents.
Ventilation fans exported to Syria by a British firm in 2003
had also been used in a chemical weapons facility, it said.
Hague said the chemicals were not subject to international
or British export controls at the time, but that the rules had
been tightened shortly afterwards.
Britain said on Wednesday it would destroy a further 50
tonnes of material from Syria's chemical weapons stockpile,
taking the total amount it has agreed to process to 200 tonnes.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Andrew Osborn)