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UK defense lab: No ID yet for source of nerve agent

China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-05 10:44

Putin hopes chemical watchdog will put an end to ongoing dispute

LONDON-The British military facility analyzing the nerve agent used to poison a spy said on Tuesday it could not prove the substance was made in Russia, as Russian President Vladimir Putin put his hopes in a meeting with the world's chemical weapons watchdog.

Gary Aitkenhead, chief executive of the Porton Down defense laboratory, told Britain's Sky News that analysts had identified the substance as military-grade Novichok, the word used for a category of nerve agents developed in Soviet times.

But he added: "We have not identified the precise source.

"It is our job to provide the scientific evidence of what this particular nerve agent is. We identified that it is from this particular family and that it is a military grade, but it is not our job to say where it was manufactured," Aitkenhead said.

He added that "extremely sophisticated methods" were needed to create the nerve agent, and that was "something only in the capabilities of a state actor".

Former double agent Sergei Skripal, who has lived in Britain since a spy swap in 2010, and his daughter Yulia have been in the hospital since March 4 after the poisoning that London and its major Western allies have blamed on Russia.

Moscow has denied any involvement in the incident.

The first use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II has chilled Moscow's relations with the West, as both sides have expelled scores of diplomats.

Britain has also suspended high-level diplomatic contact with Moscow.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Britain will have to apologize to Russia for its "mad accusations" that "have no foundation whatsoever".

Russian foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin said on Wednesday that the poisoning was a "grotesque provocation ... that was crudely concocted by the British and American security services" with the intention of implicating Russia.

Aitkenhead would not comment on whether Porton Down had developed or keeps stocks of Novichok, but he dismissed claims the agent used to poison the Skripals had come from the site.

"There is no way anything like that could have come from us or left the four walls of our facility," he said.

'Full stop'

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the world's chemical watchdog, held a closed-door meeting on Wednesday in The Hague, the Netherlands, to discuss Britain's allegations that Russia was responsible for the poisoning.

The OPCW said Russia had asked for the meeting, which Putin said was aimed at putting an end to the ongoing dispute.

"We hope that during those discussions a full stop will be placed on what happened," he said during a visit to the Turkish capital Ankara.

Putin said he had been informed of comments earlier by the British lab that it could not prove the substance was made in Russia.

"Concerning this, it is above all surprising the speed with which an anti-Russian campaign was begun," Putin said after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The meeting request came after Moscow received and analyzed samples of the Novichok agent used in the attack.

Russia's ambassador to the Czech Republic said earlier that his country was set to propose a solution to the crisis at the OPCW meeting.

Talking to reporters at the Russian embassy in Prague, Alexander Zmeyevskiy said Russia will propose "a civilized solution to the problem", but declined to give more details.

AFP/AP

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