Swiss gov't denies weapons exported to Syria

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The Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs (FDEA) Wednesday denied an accusation of selling Swiss-made hand grenades to feul the conflict in Syria, the FDEA said in a statement.

The weapons pictured in Syria might be redirected through its export to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the FDEA added.

Swiss newspaper Sonntagszeitung last Sunday published a picture of a hand grenade allegedly discovered and photographed by a reporter on June 28, in the town of Marea in Syria.

According to the initial findings of the investigation initiated by the FDEA, the hand grenade photographed came from a shipment made by Swiss state-owned arms manufacturer RUAG to the UAE in 2003 when a total of 225,162 hand grenades were exported to the UAE armed forces. To restrict the deal, a non re-export declaration was signed following the sale.

The FDEA said at present there is no evidence that Swiss hand grenades have found their way to Syria, but inquiries will continue to be carried out.

The FDEA in its statement also questioned the authenticity of the claims from the press, citing an example that it remains unclear why there are no photos of the location where the hand grenade was found.

As a country historically maintained a neutral status since 1815, Switzerland bans arms sale to warring states, though weapons produced by Swiss manufactures have repeatedly been spotted as being used in war.

In 2000, hand grenades made by RUAG were sold to Britain and used in Iraq, while Swiss-made tanks sold to the UAE in 2004 and Romania in 2007 were found used in Morocco, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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