United Nations nixes US-drafted motion on new Syria chemical weapons inquiry


The Security Council rejected three resolutions - USA call for a new body to assess blame for Syrian chemical weapons attacks and a Russian proposal for an investigation of the suspected attack last weekend in the Damascus suburb of Douma, which didn't address responsibility for chemical attacks.

Russian Federation vetoed the first resolution sponsored by the USA and its supporters calling for an independent investigative mechanism into the use of chemical weapons, after it got 12 votes for, two against and an abstention by China.

Yesterday's meeting marked the 12th time Russian Federation has used its veto to block Council action on Syria.

American ambassador Nikki Haley said the United States "went the extra mile" to get Russian support for the resolution to ensure that a new investigative body would be impartial, independent and professional - things she said would not be guaranteed by a rival Russian resolution.

12 members of the 15-member council voted for the resolution on Tuesday, but Russian Federation vetoed it.

After vetoing the U.S. resolution, Russia's Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia said it would have recreated the joint investigative mechanism that lapsed in November 2017, because of a Moscow veto and a similar new body would take a long time to become active.

A British government statement said the two agreed the Douma attack was "utterly reprehensible" and that the global community must respond "to uphold the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons". The draft received 12 votes in favour, two against (Bolivia and Russia) and one abstention (China).

The two Russian draft resolutions won six and five votes respectively. "Whenever we propose anything meaningful on Syria, Russia vetoes it".

Worldwide chemical weapons experts will go Douma to investigate the suspected poison gas attack, their organization said on Tuesday, as the United States and other Western powers consider military action over the incident.

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That panel had found that the Syrian regime had dropped sarin on the village of Khan Sheikhun in April of previous year.

A second defeated Moscow-drafted resolution would have offered backing for the fact-finding mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to Syria, but would not identify the perpetrators of attacks.

Both Trump and his defense secretary Jim Mattis abruptly cancelled upcoming travel plans Tuesday, as the USS Donald Cook - a guided-missile destroyer - moved to within striking range of Syria.

The rival resolutions that paralysed the Security Council had small differences that Russian Federation and the West hoped to score points with rather than act on Syria.

"The use of chemical weapons, once allowed to spread, is a threat to everybody and if that takes hold and becomes a routine part of fighting, then we are all at risk", said Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The team is preparing to deploy to Syria shortly", it said in a statement.

An official said the US, France and Britain were considering military options that would be more extensive than the punitive, one-day strike last April.

Both leaders agreed the global community needs to respond to uphold the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.