After Russian delay, UN council okays probe of Syria gas attack

September 10, 2015 19:48
1 minute read.

UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations Security Council on Thursday agreed to give a green light to launching an international investigation aimed at assigning blame for chemical weapon attacks in Syria, council diplomats said on Thursday.

The official start of the joint inquiry by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was delayed due to objections by Russia, which had wanted to expand the investigation to include alleged attacks by Islamic State in neighboring Iraq, diplomats said.

The council's authorization comes in the form of a draft letter from Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. A 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT) deadline for council members to raise objections to the authorization lapsed without any complaints, council diplomats told Reuters.

One diplomat said Churkin was due to sign the response letter shortly.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, UN diplomats said Iraq opposed having the mandate of the Syria investigation broadened to include its territory. Russia had raised other "technical" questions about the inquiry.

The Russian queries, one of which related to the investigation's financing mechanism, were clarified by Ban in a Sept. 9 letter, which said a trust fund would be established.

Several council diplomats said Moscow was concerned the inquiry could end up confirming allegations by Western nations and rebels that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad has repeatedly used chemical weapons, including deadly sarin and, more recently, chlorine.

Western governments hope the UN-OPCW investigation will assign blame to specific individuals that could be used someday to prosecute members of the Syrian government for war crimes.

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