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Syria wanted to buy Swiss weapon technology

The death toll of the civil war in Syria between government and rebel forces has surpassed 100,000 in June 2013, according to the United Nations Keystone

Syria has repeatedly tried to order Swiss technology – a vacuum pump, valves and a bioreactor – for the production of weapons of mass destruction, the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) said on Monday.

Seco’s export control has rejected 14 export requests worth about CHF1.7 million ($1.8 million) to Syria since 1998. The involved goods, which may have military or civil uses, required an export permit, said Seco spokeswoman Marie Avet, confirming a report in the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper.

Avet said Seco had “reasons to believe that the goods may be misused by final recipients in Syria for the production of weapons of mass destruction and their carrier systems”.

Switzerland has not supplied Syria with goods that are subject to permit for five years. It tightened existing sanctions in June 2012 because of the worsened situation for civilians. Switzerland has blocked assets and restricted trade and services with Syria.

Bogus companies

The Syrian recipients acted as representatives of bogus companies, Seco confirmed, adding that in at least one of the cases the Scientific Studies and Research Center was behind the sham. The research centre, which develops and produces weapons of mass destruction, is an institute of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Switzerland received the information about the planned use of the goods from a partner country, Seco said. In another case, where a Swiss company wanted to export goods to Iran, the United States embassy in Bern called the export control’s attention to the pending business.

Last month, a chemical weapons attack near Damascus killed more than 1,400 people – many of them children – according to US information. Tests had shown that sarin nerve gas was fired on rebel-held areas on August 21, the US government has said.

It was the deadliest incident of the Syrian civil war and the world’s worst use of chemical arms since Iraq’s Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurds in 1988. The Syrian government says the attack was staged by the rebels.

Syria’s conflict has so far been met with international deadlock. The growing violence has killed more than 100,000 people, stoked regional sectarian violence, and revived Cold War-era divisions between Western powers and Russia and China.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR