A senior British official is withholding the identities of two companies that obtained approval from his department in 2012 to supply Syria with possible nerve-agent ingredients, the London Independent reported on Thursday.
Identifying the companies could cause undeserved "reputational damage" to the organizations, said Vince Cable, British Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The companies planned to send the materials to a Damascus company 10 months after the 2011 start of Syria's civil war, Cable said. Since that time, numerous claims of sarin nerve-agent attacks have emerged from the conflict, including a large-scale gas strike that brought the United States to the brink of possible military intervention.
A senior British lawmaker, though, argued that withholding the company names would prevent Parliament from looking into the approval process.
"The prime object of the [parliamentary] scrutiny of this key issue is not the companies but the government ... your own department in particular,” John Stanley, chairman of the Parliament's Committees on Arms Export Controls, wrote in a letter to Cable.