After Russian veto, UN weighs bid to save Syria gas attacks probe

AFP , Friday 17 Nov 2017

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Russian Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Vasily Nebenzya speaks with Permanent Representative of France to the UN Francois Delattre before a meeting of the UN Security Council to vote on a bid to renew an international inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in Syria during a meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, U.S., November 16, 2017 (Photo: Reuters)

The UN Security Council on Friday discussed a fresh bid to extend a UN-led investigation of chemical weapons attacks in Syria, a day after Russia vetoed a renewal of the probe.

Japan on Thursday presented a draft resolution that would give the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) a 30-day extension to allow for negotiations on a compromise to salvage the panel.

"This is a way to avoid the death of the JIM, a way to give us time to think seriously about a lasting solution," said French Ambassador Francois Delattre ahead of a closed-door council meeting.

The council was to decide on the way forward, with diplomats saying they expected the draft resolution to be put to a vote later in the day.

The Japanese proposal came after a Russian veto -- Moscow's 10th on Syria -- of a US-drafted resolution that would have allowed the JIM to continue its work for a year.

The council also failed on Thursday to adopt a Russian-drafted resolution that would have also extended the JIM but also demanded a new investigation of the Khan Sheikhun attack.

Russia has strongly criticized the JIM after its latest report blamed the Syrian air force for a sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun that left scores dead.

The attack on April 4 triggered global outrage as images of dying children were shown worldwide, prompting the United States to launch missile strikes on a Syrian air base a few days later.

Syria has denied using chemical weapons, with strong backing from its main ally Russia.

The Japanese draft resolution would renew the JIM mandate for 30 days and task UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with submitting to the council in 20 days "proposals for the structure and methodology" of the panel.

The joint UN-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) panel was set up by Russia and the United States in 2015 and unanimously endorsed by the council, which renewed its mandate last year.

The expert team is tasked with determining who is responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

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