UN council heads for showdown on Syria gas attack probe

UNITED NATIONS, UNITED STATES, Carole Landry- Britain, France and the United States on Thursday pushed for a vote at the UN Security Council on a resolution demanding a full investigation of the suspected chemical attack in Syria.
It remained unclear whether Russia, Syria's main ally, would resort to its veto power to block the measure, which was slightly revised following negotiations over the past two days.

The Western trio circulated the draft resolution in response to the suspected toxic gas attack Tuesday on a rebel-held town in Idlib province that left 86 people dead and shocked the world.
At least 27 children choked to death in Khan Sheikhun. Results from post-mortems performed on victims point to exposure to the deadly sarin nerve agent, according to Turkish health officials.
The council was due to meet behind closed doors later Thursday, at Russia's request, to discuss Syria, but a formal vote on the Western-backed draft had not been scheduled.
Diplomats said a vote could be scheduled around 7:00 pm (2300 GMT).
The push for action at the United Nations came as the US defense chief in Washington presented President Donald Trump with a range of military options in response to the suspected chemical attack.
At an emergency council meeting on Wednesday, US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned that Washington could take unilateral action if the United Nations failed to respond to the serious allegations of chemical weapons use.
Britain, France and the United States blame President Bashar al-Assad's forces for the attack that they have described as a war crime, but the Syrian army has denied any involvement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said it was unacceptable to make "unfounded accusations" over the "incident with chemical weapons" in Syria.
- Russia faces 'terrible responsibility' -
France earlier warned Russia against resorting to its veto power to block the measure from adoption at the Security Council.
"That would be a terrible responsibility in front of history," French Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters.
Asked whether he expected Russia to resort to a veto, Delattre said: "I would not say that. I think there is still a chance. I hope so."
Russia has used its veto power seven times to block UN action that would put pressure on its ally Syria.
Moscow has rejected the proposed resolution as "categorically unacceptable" and proposed a rival draft that did not include specific demands that the Syrian government cooperate with an investigation.
The draft resolution backs an investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and demands the Syrian government provide information about its military operations on the day of the strike.
The text calls on Syria to provide flight plans, flight logs and other information on its military operations on April 4 and to hand over the names of commanders of helicopter squadrons.
It remained unclear whether Russia would request a separate vote on its proposed draft which expresses "deep concern regarding the alleged incident with the chemical weapons" in Khan Sheikhun.
That text calls for an investigation but requests that the council approve the makeup of the OPCW team dispatched to Idlib.
The Western draft would require UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report to the council on whether Syria is granting access to UN investigators.
It also threatens to impose measures under chapter seven of the UN charter, which provides for sanctions.

Thursday, April 6th 2017
Carole Landry

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