An El Al cargo plane that crashed in Amsterdam, Netherlands, six years ago was carrying a chemical that can be used in the manufacture of the deadly nerve gas Sarin, a spokesman for the Israeli national airline acknowledged on Thursday.

But a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the chemical was not toxic and had been ordered by Israel to test gas masks and other filters designed to protect against chemical agents. The Israeli Defense Ministry said that the plane carried no "dangerous goods" for the ministry.The El Al spokesman, Nachman Klieman, confirmed a report in a Dutch newspaper that the plane had carried the chemical, but he declined to say anything about its possible use.

"I can't comment on what its ultimate purpose was." he said.

Israel has never acknowledged production of chemical or biological weapons, just as Israeli officials have been deliberately am-big-u-ous about the country's reported nuclear capability.

An El Al Boeing 747-200F crashed into an apartment complex in Amsterdam on Oct. 4, 1992, killing 43 people. Since then, scores of people living in the area have complained of unidentified health problems, including respiratory and skin ailments.