Syria sought WMD material in Switzerland

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, September 2, 2013 17:00 EDT
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A rebel fighter points his weapon at regime forces in an industrial area of Syria's eastern town of Deir Ezzor, on Sept. 2, 2013. [AFP]
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Syria made multiple attempts to buy equipment in Switzerland that could have been used to make weapons of mass destruction, but officials blocked the sales, Swiss authorities said Monday.

A total of 14 attempted purchases by Syria were turned down since 1998 by Switzerland’s export-control watchdog, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, its spokeswoman Marie Avet said.

Among the contested items were a bioreactor, an industrial vacuum pump, and valves.

Avet told AFP that export controls on sensitive products can apply even to relatively cheap items, and that the 14 rejected purchases were worth a total of 1.7 million Swiss francs (1.38 million euros, $1.7 million).

The items in question could have had a civilian use, but there were reasons to believe that they could have been used to build weapons, she said.

Swiss authorities have not issued export licences for such goods to Syria for the past five years, she added.

The Swiss newspapers Tages-Anzeiger and Bund reported Monday that documents released by WikiLeaks showed Syria contacted Swiss manufacturers via front companies, but that an unidentified third country tipped off Switzerland that Damascus was involved.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

Agence France-Presse
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