UNITED NATIONS - The United States renewed a push on Monday for the U Security Council to establish a new inquiry into who is to blame for using chemical weapons in Syria after reports of a deadly poison gas attack on a rebel-held town.The United States circulated a revised draft resolution to the 15-member council, which it first put forward on March 1, amid a warning from President Donald Trump that there would be a "big price to pay" for the suspected attack on Saturday.If the US text - seen by Reuters - is put to a vote, diplomats say it would likely be vetoed by key Syrian ally Russia. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States to pass.The Security Council is due to meet over the latest suspected chemical weapons attack later on Monday. Diplomats said the United States had asked for discussions on their draft resolution after that meeting. It was not immediately clear when it could be put to a vote."This is basically a diplomatic set-up," said Richard Gowan, the UN expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations."Russia will inevitably veto the US resolution criticizing Assad, and Washington will use this to justify military strikes," he said. "A breakdown at the UN will also make it easier for France to justify strikes."
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned last month that if the council fails to act on Syria, Washington "remains prepared to act if we must," just as it did last year when it bombed a Syrian government air base over a deadly toxic gas attack. The Syrian government and its key ally Russia have denied involvement in the attack on Douma on Saturday, in which a Syria medical relief group said at least 60 people had been killed and more than 1,000 injured in several sites.Russia has long been worried that Trump is planning further military action against the Syrian government. Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has voiced concern several times that allegations of chemical weapons use "might be a pretext for something bigger and much more dangerous."A previous international investigation, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism, ended in November after Russia blocked for the third time in a month attempts to renew the inquiry, which Moscow has slammed as flawed.The joint inquiry of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had found the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in an April, 2017 attack and has also several times used chlorine as a weapon. It blamed Islamic State militants for mustard gas use.Russia proposed its own draft resolution in January to create a new inquiry, but has never put it to a vote.Sweden also pushed the council on Monday to consider adopting a resolution to demand the warring parties in Syria cooperate with an OPCW inquiry into the Douma attack.The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons international watchdog said it had opened an investigation to determine what exactly had happened in Douma.
Deadly gas attack reported on Syrian rebel enclave, Damascus denies, April 8, 2018 (Reuters)