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Russia, US headed for United Nations showdown over Syria gas attacks probe

Russia, US headed for United Nations showdown over Syria gas attacks probe

Russia, US headed for United Nations showdown over Syria gas attacks probe

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday urged all members of the U.N. Security Council to back the renewal of the worldwide inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in Syria, saying it was needed to prevent President Bashar al-Assad from using the arms, Reuters reports.

Earlier Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave his clearest indication yet that Moscow was prepared to veto the US-drafted measure extending the panel for one year.

The summit at Putin's official residence in Sochi will involve the three "guarantors of the process of political settlement and stability and security that we see now in Syria", Peskov said.

Two days ago, he said, the North American Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, affirmed that there is a resolution of the UN Security Council that allows his country to maintain troops on Syrian soil. The panel's mandate expires at midnight.

Russian Federation has vetoed nine resolutions on Syria since the conflict started in 2011, including blocking an initial US bid on October 24 to renew the JIM, saying it wanted to wait for the release two days later of the inquiry's report that blamed a sarin gas attack on the Syrian government.

But Russia has been highly critical of the JIM's findings that the Syrian government used chlorine gas in at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 and used sarin in an aerial attack on Khan Sheikhoun last April 4 that killed about 100 people and affected about 200 others who survived the nerve agent.

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The Russian draft, by contrast, requests the JIM to visit Khan Sheikhoun and re-evaluate its findings.

Washington and its allies have blamed Assad's government for the Khan Sheikhun attack, but Syria has denied using chemical weapons, with strong backing from Russian Federation.

The White House in June cautioned against another possible chemical weapons strike in Syria, warning that the Assad government would "pay a heavy price" for it.

Russia's move drew harsh criticism from US Ambassador Nikki Haley, who said Russian Federation had struck a "deep blow" to United Nations efforts to identify those using chemical weapons and deter future attacks. The two documents had different timeframe - the Russian draft extended the mandate until May 16, 2018, while the U.S. version gave the mission 24 months since the adoption of the resolution.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre urged council members to "please think twice before throwing it away, because this would be a major setback for the fundamentals of our common security".

The statement comes as a joint global inquiry by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is set to expire Thursday.

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