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France freezes company assets over Syria chemical weapons

AFP  |  Paris 

today imposed a six-month asset freeze on companies based in Syria, and after they were linked to an alleged programme in

The businesses include Sigmatec and the Al Mahrous Group, both based in Damascus; in Lebanon; and a trading company in in China, according to a list published in the government's official gazette.

Two Syrian nationals will also face asset freezes as well as a person born in in 1977 whose nationality was not given.

The asset freezes were signed by French

In a statement, Le Maire and said the individuals and businesses were working with the (SSRC), which they described as Syria's main laboratory producing and ballistic launchers.

In January, sanctioned 25 people and companies based in Syria, and also French, Lebanese and Chinese citizens, over suspicions of fuelling the development of in the war-ravaged country.

The companies targeted included importers and distributors of metals, electronics, logistics and shipping.

Aziz Allouche, the owner of Technolab, told AFP that his company supplied only universities, schools and professional education centres with electronic and industrial gear such as

"I'm surprised by this news, I don't work with France," Allouche said. "If they want to question me, they're welcome to." and Allouche are also among several companies and individuals whose assets have been frozen by US officials over suspected support for Syria's SSRC.

"All my business involves the civil sector. But the equipment I provide can be used for either civil or military purposes," Allouche said.

"If I supply a university and they use it for something else, how is that my fault?"

Some 30 countries meet in today to put in place mechanisms to better identify and punish those responsible for using nerve agents such as sarin and chlorine in attacks.

After hundreds of people were killed in near in August 2013, a landmark deal with was struck to rid of its chemical weapons stash, staving off US air strikes.

Despite the deal, a suspected chlorine and sarin attack in the Syrian town of on April 7 this year triggered a wave of punitive missile strikes against alleged in by the United States, Britain and

Sites operated by the SSRC were among those targeted in the strikes, according to the for Human Rights, a monitoring group.

The is due to soon release a fact-finding report into the suspected attack.

The of a former Russian double agent and his daughter with a nerve agent in Britain in March has also sparked a diplomatic stand-off between and Western powers, which see the hand of behind the attack.

"After disappearing for nearly 20 years, the return of chemical weapons in the hands of both state and non-state actors in Iraq, Syria, or demands the resolute mobilisation of the international community," the French ministers said in their statement.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, May 18 2018. 17:25 IST