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Last Updated: Friday, 11 April, 2003, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Paris 'ricin' find is harmless
Castor beans
Ricin, found naturally in castor beans, could be used by terrorists
Two bottles thought to contain the deadly toxin ricin that were found at a Paris railway station last month have proved harmless.

Defence Ministry laboratory tests showed they contained a mixture of ground barley and wheat germ.

"Preliminary tests pointed towards ricin but they were not confirmed by more complete analysis," an official said.

The barley and wheat germ have certain chemical similarities to ricin and produced misleading initial test results.

However, there will be a further round of tests by the Paris prosecutor's office.

Downgraded

Police found the two containers - along with two other bottles of powder and one of liquid - when they examined a left-luggage locker at the Gare de Lyon on 17 March.

Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy called for greater vigilance after the discovery

Following the discovery, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said there could be a connection with a network of Islamic extremists who were detained around the capital in December.

The ministry initially said the contents held "traces of ricin in a mixture which has proven to be a very toxic poison".

Mr Sarkozy called for greater public vigilance.

The ministry soon downgraded the assessment, saying the traces of suspected ricin were too minute to be lethal.

Ricin is a highly dangerous toxin found in castor beans.

Police fear its use by terrorists as a biological weapon.

On 5 January, British police found traces of ricin in a raid on a London flat during which five men of North African origin were detained.


SEE ALSO:
Ricin 'linked to militants'
21 Mar 03  |  Europe
Terror police arrest ricin suspect
23 Jan 03  |  UK News
FBI alerts police to ricin risk
10 Jan 03  |  Americas
Q&A: What is ricin?
07 Jan 03  |  Health
Biological weapons: Ricin
03 Mar 03  |  In Depth


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