Agents in Dubai learn to detect weapon materials

Customs agents have received specialist training in how to find weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

DUBAI // Customs agents and Civil Defence officers have received specialist training in how to find weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and materials that could be used in their manufacture. The two-day course focused on dual-use technology, and formed part of an effort to support legitimate trade while controlling the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, according to a Dubai Customs official.

"Dubai Customs has developed a programme for controlling export and materials of dual usage," said Mohammed al Mari, the director of customs cargo operations. The course, which is first of its kind in the Middle East, would help to ensure the programme was carried out efficiently, Mr Mari said. Mohammed Foolad, a WMD expert with Dubai Customs, said the course raised awareness among officers of materials that were known to be used in making WMDs, and others that could be used to manufacture legal products as well as weapons and explosives.

Officers were taught how to detect and identify a variety of mineral, chemical, biological and nuclear substances. They also learnt international codes used to identify different materials, and how transport and freight systems work. "Dubai Customs has not neglected its customers and investors, as we have published a booklet to raise awareness among companies and corporations about the export regulations," Mr Mari said.

"The guide also helps to protect customers and investors [by] preventing the export of dual-use items or dealing with suspicious companies, which may lead to international prosecution," he added. During an interview with The National earlier this year, Mohammed al Mehairi, the head of the Federal Customs Authority, said effective use of data analysis and advanced training for officers was vital to control dual-use material such as fertilizers, which could be used to make explosives and other weapons, as well as the movement of goods that could be used to build nuclear reactors and other facilities associated with WMDs.

"With these facilities you need special kinds of steel, special fabrications, but when criminals are smuggling these items they don't disclose their purpose. The trick is to analyse the data you have and target [operations]," he said. "We have had some success at this." In March, prosecutors in Dubai announced that a man would go on trial for attempting to deal in zirconium, a metal used to build nuclear reactors.

The trial, now underway, is expected to hear testimony from an expert in nuclear issues this morning. The trade in dual-use material and technology is controlled in the UAE by Federal Law No 12 of 2007. @Email:gmcclenaghan@thenational.ae

Published: July 2, 2008 04:00 AM

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