CHEMICALS SOLD TO EGYPT DESPITE FEAR OF IRAQ RESALE

CHEMICALS SOLD TO EGYPT DESPITE FEAR OF IRAQ RESALE

The British government permitted chemical exports to Egypt despite concerns they could end up in Iraqi nerve gas, the "Iraqgate" inquiry was told Monday.

The inquiry is trying to discover if the government broke its own rules and sold arms to Baghdad.Tim Renton, a former junior foreign minister, told the inquiry that he initially opposed the export of 26 tons of hydrogen fluoride to Egypt in 1986.

"I agreed to the recommendation that it should be approved subject to certain caveats," Mr. Renton told the inquiry. He insisted that Egypt should be told of Britain's concern about the chemicals not being re-exported or put to military use.

Lord Justice Scott's inquiry was launched after the trial of three businessmen accused of illegally shipping arms to Baghdad collapsed in November, setting off a political storm.

Mr. Renton told the inquiry that he strictly applied guidelines on arms- related exports to Iran and Iraq and never favored either one during their eight-year war.

Guidelines set by the government barred exports to either side that would ''significantly enhance" the conflict.

Mr. Renton, self-assured during his grilling, is the first of three foreign affairs officials to appear this week before the tribunal. Witnesses are not under oath and have immunity from prosecution.

Mr. Renton's appearance coincided with Britain's decision to revoke all export licenses for companies exporting goods to Iraq that are exempt from a U.N. trade embargo after it was discovered that some may have been doctored.