BERLIN (AP) — Germany exported more than 100 metric tons (110 tons) of “dual-use” chemicals to Syria between 2002 and 2006, but officials insisted Wednesday there was no indication the substances had been used to make chemical weapons such as the poisonous sarin gas used in last month’s deadly attack outside Damascus.
The exports were authorized after officials were assured of “plausible civilian uses” for the chemicals, the Economy Ministry said in a written response to questions from left-wing lawmakers.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was no indication they had been used for military purposes.
“According to all the information available to me, they were used for civilian purposes,” Merkel told public television station ARD.
But she said officials were still checking whether further shipments took place after 2006 and before May 2011, when Germany imposed strict controls on exports to Syria.
The chemicals, which were exported under governments headed by Merkel and her center-left predecessor Gerhard Schroeder, included 93 metric tons (102 tons) of hydrogen fluoride and 12 metric tons (13 tons) of ammonium hydrogen fluoride.
These substances can be used in the production of sarin, but also have legitimate civilian purposes, according to Carlos Fraga, a researcher at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.
Both hydrogen fluoride and ammonium hydrogen fluoride have been subject to export restrictions in Germany since the late 1980s — shortly after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ordered chemical weapons used against the Kurdish village of Halabja, resulting in around 5,000 deaths.
A U.N. report earlier this week confirmed that sarin was used in the Aug. 21 attack outside Damascus in which hundreds of people were killed. Russia has blamed Syrian rebels for the attack, while the U.S. and its European and Arab allies said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces were responsible.