Lebanese Firms Deny Syria Chemical Weapons Ties
Companies and nationals blacklisted by France for alleged links to Syria's chemical weapons program denied any wrongdoing on Thursday, two days after their names appeared on a list of entities sanctioned by Paris.
France said Tuesday the 25 entities – from Lebanon, Syria, France and China - were suspected of belonging to two "supply networks" for the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which has been repeatedly sanctioned over Syria's chemical program.
Amir Katranji, one of the named Syrian nationals, said he and his blacklisted company Electronics Katranji Trading (EKT) had "nothing to do with chemical" goods.
He and brothers Houssam and Maher were all listed in the French announcement, as were EKT's affiliated departments, NKTronics and SmartPegasus.
France also sanctioned Beirut-based ABC Shipping, whose owner Sami Ballout fiercely denied his company was involved in chemical arms development.
"We reject and deny this decision... Not only do I not have anything to do with this -- I'm taking legal steps," he told AFP.
An office address listed for SmartLogistics appeared to be closed, and two Lebanese numbers were out of service.
But one number was active on messaging service WhatsApp and was answered by someone identifying himself as Alaa.
"We're in Dubai working on the issue. We're hiring an international legal firm. There's been a mistake or a misunderstanding," he said.
The SSRC has been hit by sanctions in 2005, 2007 and 2017.
Last year, the US blacklisted 271 Syrian chemists and other officials for ties to the SSRC.
It accused the center of developing the sarin gas deployed on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria in April, which the United Nations and others have blamed on the Damascus regime.
Syria has staunchly denied using toxic arms, saying it got rid of its chemical weapons stash in 2013.