France sanctions firms with alleged links to Syria chemical weapons
The global chemical weapons watchdog is investigating a suspected April chemical attack in Douma, Syria (AFP)
France on Friday froze the assets for six months of companies based in Syria, Lebanon and China after they were linked to an alleged chemical weapons programme in Syria.
The businesses include Sigmatec and the Al Mahrous Group, both based in Damascus, Technolab in Lebanon, and a trading company in Guangzhou 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 Lebanon in 1977 whose nationality was not specified.
The asset freezes were signed by the French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire.
"Three people and nine companies have been targeted for their role in the research and/or acquisition of materials for the development of chemicals and ballistic weapons for this country," a French statement said.
In January, France sanctioned 25 people and companies based in Syria, but also French, Lebanese and Chinese, over suspicions of fuelling the development of chemical weapons in the war-ravaged country.
The companies targeted included importers and distributors of metals, electronics, logistics and shipping.
Some 30 countries meet in Paris on Friday 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 chemical attacks near Damascus in August 2013, a landmark deal with Russia was struck to rid Syria of its chemical weapons stash, staving off US air strikes.
Despite the deal, a suspected chlorine and sarin attack in the Syrian town of Douma on 7 April triggered a wave of punitive missile strikes against alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria by the United States, Britain and France.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is due to soon release a fact-finding report into the suspected Douma attack.