- Pontiff held press conference on flight taking him from Turkey to Rome
- Said Syria is unable to make the chemical weapons used against citizens
- Added that the chemicals must have been supplied to nation by the West
- Nerve agent Sarin linked to several attacks during the three-year civil war
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Returning from a three-day trip to Turkey the pope said the Middle East state did not have the ability to manufacture the chemical weapons that were deployed against Syrian civilians last year, adding they must have been supplied them by its ‘accusers’.
Nerve agent Sarin, described by chemical weapons experts as one of the ‘deadliest agents known to man’, has been linked to several attacks during the three-year civil war in Syria.
Both British and the US governments threatened military action against President Bashir al-Assad after an attack in which almost 1,500 people were killed, including 426 children last year but ultimately were defeated by votes in Parliament and the US Congress.
Francis condemned arms trafficking as ‘terrible’ and lamented that it was currently one of the strongest fields of business.
He said that we are ‘living through a third world war’, being fought piecemeal all over the planet.
‘The causes of this are historical enmities, political problems, economic problems, all working to prop up this system that places money and not the human person at the centre. And behind this there are also commercial interests.’
Syria established its chemical program with Soviet military assistance as a deterrent to Israel.
Foreign Minister William Hague admitted as he left office that in the 1980s Britain sold Syria precursor chemicals that Damascus later used to manufacture sarin.
The Newsnight programme revealed this summer that the UK was the sole supplier of the three key ingredients used to produce sarin; dimethyl phosphate (DMP), trimethyl phosphate (TMP) and hexamine. regarded as the ‘building block’ of sarin.
The UK also supplied electrical fans to Syria as late as 2003, it said, components of which were used in Assad’s chemical weapon programme.
At the same time the Blair government were invading Iraq for allegedly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
But even as late as 2012, British firms were planning to honour contracts to export dual-use chemicals those with civilian or military applications.
Pope Francis firmly opposed Western intervention in Syria.