Western powers to press Syria resolution at UN

September 17, 2013 10:10 am
A Syrian rebel tries on a gas mask seized from an arms depot in the northwestern province of Idlib, on July 18, 2013/AFP
A Syrian rebel tries on a gas mask seized from an arms depot in the northwestern province of Idlib, on July 18, 2013/AFP

, UNITED NATIONS September 17-  Western powers were poised Tuesday to press their efforts for a UN resolution to rid Syria of chemical weapons, one day after a report by the world body describing a “chilling” sarin gas attack there.

United Nations experts, without assigning blame, said they had gathered “clear and convincing evidence” that surface to surface rockets took sarin gas into the opposition-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21.

The United States had threatened a military strike on Syria over the attack, which it said killed more than 1,400 people.

Washington said responsibility for the attack rests squarely with the regime of President Bashar al Assad.

“The technical details of the UN report make clear that only the regime could have carried out this large scale chemical weapons attack,” said Washington’s UN ambassador Samantha Power. “It defies logic to think that the opposition would have infiltrated the regime controlled area to fire on opposition controlled areas.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there was “no doubt” that government forces were to blame, while British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the report made “abundantly clear” that the Syrian regime was behind the attack.

France and Britain will soon send a draft resolution to other Security Council members demanding a threat of sanctions if Assad does not keep to a disarmament plan and for the chemical attacks to be referred to the International Criminal Court, diplomats said.

“We may all have our own thoughts on this, but I would simply say that this was a grave crime and those responsible must be brought to justice as soon as possible,” Ban told reporters.

On Friday, he said Assad had “committed many crimes against humanity.”

While the United States, Britain and France all insist that the findings show Assad’s forces had used the weapons, Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said after a Security Council meeting on the report that there should be more investigation into who was responsible.

Moscow has sided with Assad in blaming opposition rebels for the chemical assault.

The UN experts’ report will now become a key weapon in a Security Council battle over how much of a threat must be made against Assad to make him disarm.

The French, US and British foreign ministers called for a “strong” resolution after a meeting in Paris.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said: “If Assad fails to comply with the terms of this framework, make no mistake we are all agreed, and that includes Russia, that there will be consequences.”

Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed a plan on Saturday under which Syria’s chemical weapons would be eliminated by mid-2014.

Russia has agreed the plans must be backed by a Security Council resolution but rejects any move to include the threat of force into a UN text.

Lavrov said such threats could kill off hopes of a peace conference on the 30 month old conflict in which more than 110,000 people, according to activists.

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