Germany ended Syria chemical exports in May 2011: ministry

19 September 2013 14:53  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Germany stopped granting Syrian exports permits for chemicals that can be used to make sarin nerve gas after 1 May 2011, the country’s economics ministry said on Thursday.

German chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed on Wednesday 18 September that the country had granted export permits between 2002 and 2006 for more than 110 tonnes of such chemicals to be supplied to Syria, but she stressed that the permits were for the chemicals’ use in civilian applications only.

The ministry, responding to an inquiry by ICIS, said that the chemicals – including sodium fluoride, hydrofluoric acid, and ammonium hydrogen fluoride - are classified as “dual use” under EU regulations, which means that they can be used in civilian applications or in chemical weapons production.

The permits had been granted after a “careful assessment of all possible risks”, including their misuse in the production of chemical weapons, the ministry said.

The government had no information that the chemicals had been misused, the ministry added.

In related news on Thursday, Syria’s president Bashar Assad told a US news channel in a webcast interview that Syria has chemical weapons but that it is prepared to surrender them so that they can be destroyed.

This process would take about one year and cost an estimated $1bn (€740m), Assad said.

Assad also responded to questions that sarin gas was used in killing an estimated 1,400 civilians on 21 August in Syria. The United Nations (UN) this week confirmed that sarin gas was used on that day.

However, Assad said that the gas had been used by opposition fighters, and not by his government. He said that sarin was known as “kitchen gas” because everyone could produce it at home.

($1 = €0.74)

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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