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UK granted Syria chemical licences
British businesses were given permission to send potentially deadly chemicals to Syria in the build-up to the brutal conflict, the Government has confirmed.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) granted a number of licences to specialist firms allowing them to deliver sodium fluoride to Syria before the current conflict and European Union (EU) sanctions.
The licences allowed the sale of the chemical for commercial use in cosmetics and healthcare products, and there is "no evidence that the chemicals were used in weapons programmes", a spokeswoman for BIS said.
Scientists told The Mail on Sunday that sodium fluoride can be used to make the nerve agent sarin, which scientists believe was used in the chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21, in which the US says 1,429 people died.
"These licence applications, which predate the current conflict and EU sanctions, were rigorously assessed and determined to be for legitimate commercial use, namely cosmetics and healthcare products," the BIS spokeswoman said.
"There is no evidence that the chemicals were used in weapons programmes. The Government is confident that UK export controls continue to be among the most stringent in the world."
The five licences were issued in July 2004, September 2005, March 2007, February 2009 and May 2010, the year before the civil conflict erupted.
It comes after BIS admitted issuing licences for the export of sodium fluoride and potassium fluoride to the war-torn country in January last year before revoking them several months later.
The Government said no chemicals were exported before the licence was revoked in June 2012 following EU sanctions.
Last week, UK scientists at Porton Down said they found positive evidence of sarin on samples of soil and clothing reportedly retrieved from the site of the attack