Letter: `Nerve gas' doubts

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your report (25 August) about the compound "from the Sudanese pharmaceutical factory" that led to the bombing of that factory needs to be examined critically.

Types of the compound described by you, an ethyl-methyl-phosphorus derivative, can be bought on the open market. If every laboratory which has such a chemical in its possession is to be bombed, then it is goodbye to many chemistry departments in UK, USA and all over the world.

It is essential that investigators prove that the compound was made in the Sudanese factory and that it was made in quantities likely to be useful in the preparation of nerve gases, and for no other reason. I incorporated such compounds in the design of potential platinum anti-cancer drugs thirty years ago.

The public must know the facts about the chemicals concerned in order to feel sure that terrorist targets were attacked and not innocent parties. People world-wide will support the effort to eliminate terrorists, but not random reprisal raids, just to show the ability to strike anybody, anywhere. The USA must come clean, as must our government.


Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory

University of Oxford