British MP calls on UK to declassify Syria chemical weapons intelligence

#SyriaWar

UK foreign affairs committee chairman Crispin Blunt commends France for publishing intelligence report on chemical weapons in Syria

Big Ben near the UK Houses of Parliament in London (AFP)
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Thursday 27 April 2017 9:59 UTC
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A leading British politician called on the UK government to declassify its intelligence assessment of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, after the publication of a French intelligence services report that blames Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a sarin gas attack against civilians.

“French authorities have set a great example with the publication of their declassified intelligence report into the heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria,” said UK foreign affairs committee chairman Crispin Blunt in a statement on Wednesday.

'A declassified report should support our French counterparts in challenging those who deny their responsibility for this appalling crime'

- Crispin Blunt, Foriegn Affairs Committee chairman

“This is a welcome step forward and important contribution to the public record that I recommend the UK government to follow,” he added.

French intelligence services published a declassified report on Wednesday concluding that forces loyal to Assad carried out a sarin nerve gas attack in northern Syria and that the Syrian president or his closest entourage ordered the strike.  

Commenting on the report, Blunt said: “If British intelligence points in the same direction, then a declassified report should support our French counterparts in challenging those who deny their responsibility for this appalling crime.”

The attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun on 4 April killed scores of people and prompted the US to launch a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base in response, its first direct assault on the Assad government in the conflict.

The six-page document - drawn up by France's military and foreign intelligence services - said it was able to reach its conclusion based on samples obtained from impact craters, and blood from a victim.

The report also raised "major doubts" about the "accuracy, exhaustiveness and sincerity of the decommissioning of Syria's chemical weapons".

'The public has the right to ask for a more thorough explanation for the basis of their Government’s assessment'

- Crispin Blunt, chairman of UK foreign affairs committee

"Syria has maintained a capacity to produce or stock Sarin, despite its commitment to destroy all stocks and capacities,” said the report.

Blunt said that despite the limitations of making the case in the open, "the public has the right to ask for a more thorough explanation for the basis of their government’s assessment.”

Post-mortem examinations on victims in Turkey shortly after the attack, monitored by the World Health Organisation, had concluded there was evidence of sarin exposure.

According to CNN, US intelligence agencies had intercepted communications between the Syrian military and chemical weapons experts discussing plans for a chemical attack in Idlib province.

Assad's claim to AFP news agency on 13 April that the attack had been fabricated, was "not credible" given the mass flows of casualties in a short space of time arriving in Syrian and Turkish hospitals as well as the sheer quantity of online activity showing people with neurotoxic symptoms, said the report.