Russian Federation says will veto Syria sanctions over chemical weapons

A Western diplomat said the new USA administration was now co-sponsoring the resolution, and consultations on it could start on Friday at the Security Council.

The United States, France and Britain are pushing for a vote early next week on the proposed resolution that would slap sanctions on Syrians deemed responsible for chemical attacks in the almost six-year war.

The joint panel of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also found that Islamic State (IS) militant group had used mustard gas in an attack in 2015.

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons in the war that has killed 310,000 people since March 2011. Russia, Syria's closest ally, has questioned the investigation's conclusions linking chemical weapons use to Syrian government, and Russian deputy ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said Friday that his nation would veto the sanctions measure if it came up for a vote. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said: "We've worked with the UK and France to make sure this resolution comes on board and then we'll find out which countries have an excuse for chemical weapons and which ones are really going to say this is a problem".

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said she was not swayed by the Russian arguments. "People have died by being suffocated to death". Previous council resolutions called for "measures", under a United Nations charter chapter that authorizes sanctions, if chemical weapons are used.

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"With Geneva on at the same time, we think this resolution sends a strong message", one diplomat said. "So what is at stake here, frankly, is the credibility of the Security Council", he said. Peace talks began Thursday in Geneva, with the United Nations envoy for Syria casting them as a historic chance to end the conflict.

France and Britain presented the first draft on imposing sanctions on Syria in December, but held off on action to give the new U.S. administration time to study it.

The asset freeze also would apply to the research center, to eight entities described as its front companies or proxies and to the Ministry of Defense subsidiary.

A joint inquiry by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found that Syrian government forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks and that Islamic State militants had used mustard gas, according to reports seen by Reuters past year.

The United States last month blacklisted 18 senior Syrian military officers and officials over the use of chemical weapons, but there have been no UN sanctions imposed on Syria due to Russia's opposition.

  • Sonia Alvarado