RAF CHEMICAL WEAPONS UNIT TO BE OPENED SEPTEMBER TO DEAL WITH SYRIAN CHEMICAL WEAPONS
Axed chemical weapons unit could be reopened as UK considers joining US in intervening in Syria
The specialist military unit was closed as part of budget cuts in 2011
But an MoD source says that it could be operational again by September
The unit will be funded using money from elsewhere in defence budget
By STEVE NOLAN
PUBLISHED: 06:31, 17 June 2013 | UPDATED: 09:51, 17 June 2013
A specialist military unit which is able to secure Syria’s chemical weapons is to be reinstated by the Ministry of Defence – two years after it was axed as part of budget cuts.
The move will be made after US President Barack Obama decided that intervention is necessary in the civil war-ravaged country, with British forces able to join US forces sent to Syria to try and prevent its stockpile of weapons falling into terrorist’s hands.
The unit was cut in 2011 in a bid to save £129million a year.
An MoD source said that the unit could be operational again before the end of September, according to The Daily Telegraph.
The source told the paper: ‘The MoD has been engaged in a very rapid re-think of what Britain is able to do in Syria, and concluded that the lack of a capability would largely prevent active participation in a US ground incursion, or even a post-conflict offer to sort out chemical weapons sites that are vulnerable to terrorists’ looting.’
The unit will be funded using money from other parts of the defence budget.
Two specialist Fuchs NBC vehicles which had been put in storage after the unit was closed are reportedly already being tested and reconditioned at RAF Honnington in Suffolk.
The only remaining specialist chemicals unit within UK forces is the RAF Defence Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Wing.
But that unit is described as only having limited collection and analysis capabilities.
AN MoD spokesman told the Telegraph that resources to tackle the chemical weapons threat to the UK are constantly being reviewed.
Security services see the danger that chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Islamist fighters or extremist allies such as the Iranian-backed Hizbollah as a prime risk.
The threat of an attack against Britain using chemical weapons was downgraded in 2010, a year before the specialist unit was scrapped.
‘DON’T ARM MANIACS IN SYRIA’: BORIS JOHNSON’S WARNING TO DAVID CAMERON
Warning: Mayor of London Boris Johnson
Mayor of London Boris Johnson has warned that arming Syrian rebels would be ‘pressing weapons into the hands of maniacs.’
He warned Prime Minister David Cameron that any weapons sent to Syria by the UK could fall into the hands of Al Qaeda.
Several leading figures, including Deputy PM Nick Clegg and former head of the Army Lord Dannatt, have warned Mr
Cameron to be cautious when considering joining US President Barack Obama in intervening in the bloody civil war being waged in the state.
Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson said: This is the moment for a total ceasefire, an end to the madness.
‘It is time for the US, Russia, the EU, Turkey, Iran, Saudi and all the players to convene an intergovernmental conference to try to halt the carnage.
‘We can’t use Syria as an arena for geopolitical point-scoring or muscle-flexing, and we won’t get a ceasefire by pressing weapons into the hands of maniacs.’
Russian president Vladimir Putin also warned against arming the rebels, saying that if it was a good idea then his country would have already done it.
Mr Cameron has been warned that he could face defeat in Parliament if he tries to get MPs’ backing to arm the rebels amid growing political opposition to the move.
Deputy PM Mr Clegg said that the Government will not arm the rebels as it is not the ‘right thing to do’ at the moment.