German Chemicals for Syria Merkel Denies Military Use
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that according to preliminary information, German chemicals sent to Syria were not used to produce sarin. The Left Party wants a closer look.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that according to preliminary information available to her, chemicals sent from Germany to Syria from 2002 to 2006 were used for civilian purposes, and not for the production of the nerve agent sarin.
Merkel's comments came after a document released Wednesday by the Economics Ministry confirmed that Germany had sent 137 tons of chemicals to Syria.
The chemicals included hydrogen flouride, sodium fluoride and ammonium hydrogen fluoride, which require special export permits (so-called "dual-use" permits) because they can be used for either civilian or military purposes, including the production of deadly sarin.
Speaking on the German network ARD, Merkel said that her predecessors in a center-left coalition of the Social Democrats and the Greens had looked carefully at what the chemicals would be used for in Syria. The exports were sent to Syria during that coalition in 2002 to 2003, and two years later, after a grand coalition government made up of Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats had taken power in Berlin.
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The document was released after a parliamentary request for information from Germany's far-left Left Party. Jan van Aken, an expert on biological and chemical weapons for the Left Party and a former United Nations weapons inspector, is calling for a close examination of the chemicals sent from Germany to Syria.
"If there is one country to which no one should have sent them, it is Syria," van Aken told German broadcaster ZDF Thursday morning. "It was well known that sarin is being produced in large quantities there."
Merkel told ARD Wednesday that since May 2011, when stricter sanctions against Syria went into effect, there have been no similar exports to the country, and added that the government was looking into the earlier exports.
The non-military uses for the chemicals include the surface treatment of metals, water fluoridation and the production of toothpaste. According to government sources in Berlin, the country's foreign intelligence service, the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), was consulted before approval was given for exporting the chemicals.
UN chemical investigators earlier this week confirmed that sarin was used in an attack on civilians outside the Syrian capital of Damascus on Aug. 21. Despite criticism by the Russian government this week that the report was "one-sided," the UN has maintained that the findings are "indisputable."
mlb -- with wires