Call to probe gas attacks

UNITED NATIONS – Syria should investigate accusations that government forces carried out chlorine gas attacks and Islamic State militants used mustard gas, Russia said yesterday, dimming Western hopes that UN sanctions could be imposed on those responsible.

The 15-member council met behind closed doors to discuss the findings of an inquiry by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which blamed the Syrian Government for three toxic gas attacks.

France, Britain and the United States hope to persuade Russia to agree to a 12-month extension to the mandate of the inquiry, which expires on October 31, before starting negotiations on a draft resolution to punish those blamed for such attacks.

“The conclusions of the JIM (Joint Investigative Mechanism) are not definitive, have no legally binding force and cannot serve as accusatory conclusions for taking legal decision,” Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council, according to a copy of his remarks.

“Damascus should carry out a comprehensive national investigation on chemical incidents confirmed by the JIM,” he said, adding that while Russia is still studying the latest report, most cases in the international inquiry’s report were “full of contradictions and therefore, unconvincing”.

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