Russia stalls as Britain, France seek action after proof of chemical weapons use in Syria

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Russia said it seeks further investigation after a United Nations report blamed chlorine gas attacks on the Syrian government.

In the U.N. Security Council, Britain and France called for sanctions against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally. A report released last week cited at least nine instances in the Syrian war in which chlorine, an industrial chemical banned for warfare, was used on the Syrian population. The report accused the Syrian military of two of those attacks. Britain and France both support the rebellion against the government.

The report by the non-governmental Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons blamed the Islamic State for one incident of chemical use. Responsibility for six other attacks could not be determined.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, agreed Tuesday that chlorine was likely used in warfare, but said there is no hard evidence in the non-governmental Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons report indicating government troops are implicated. He added some of the report is worded to suggest the findings could be inaccurate.

“We continue to, of course, analyze the report, but again there are two cases, which, they suggest, are the fault of the Syrian side. We have very serious questions,” Churkin said Tuesday.

Earlier, at a security council meeting, Churkin said, “Clearly there is a smoking gun. We know that chlorine most likely has been used — that was already the finding of the fact-finding mission before — but there are no fingerprints on the gun.”

The British and French delegations to the United Nations said earlier they would seek measures against anyone using chemical weapons in Syria. Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, referred to the report as a “landmark,” and called for prompt action, saying, “It is the first official independent confirmation of what many of us… have presented substantial evidence of, for a long time, and that is a pattern of chemical weapons use by the Syrian regime.”

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