US, Russia fight at United Nations over Syria chemical weapons attacks

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KELEMEN: Haley says it's not the USA that's a threat to peace and security but rather Syria and its backer, Russia, that are, in her words, trying to normalize the use of chemical weapons.

Worldwide investigators from the global chemical weapons watchdog are in Syria and were due to start their inquiry on Saturday into the suspected toxic gas attack.

The United States and other Western powers are considering taking military action over a suspected poison gas attack Saturday on a rebel-held Syrian town that long had held out against President Bashar Assad's forces. "The president holds Syria and Russian Federation responsible for this chemical weapons attack".

Worldwide air-traffic control system Eurocontrol issued a 72-hour warning Tuesday about 11 a.m. ET for airlines to be careful flying over the eastern Mediterranean and Syria.

Russian Federation and the United States tangled Tuesday at the U.N. Security Council over Syria as they blocked attempts by each other to set up worldwide investigations into alleged chemical weapons attacks in the war-ravaged country.

Russian Federation has requested an emergency meeting of the Security Council Saturday to discuss the situation after the airstrike in Syria by the United States, France and Britain, diplomats said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who delayed a trip to Saudi Arabia to deal with the Syria crisis, said he had asked special envoy Staffan de Mistura to return to NY as soon as possible to chart a way forward.

A draft resolution requires nine votes to be adopted in the 15-member council and no veto from the five permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.


Russian ambassador Vasily Nebenzia accused the US of attempting to mislead the global community and said it is "taking one more step toward confrontation".

It was the second vote by the council on Tuesday.

Tuesday's intensive voting came as Security Council members were striving to set up a mechanism to determine which side was accountable for the chemical weapons use in Syria. And Ambassador Haley denies the Trump administration is acting impulsively.

The United States, Britain and France have argued that military action was necessary after Assad's forces had used toxic gases multiple times in violation of worldwide law.

Turkey's foreign ministry said the airstrikes were "an appropriate response to the chemical attack". A US Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, is in the Mediterranean.

The airspace over Syria is empty and likely will be until at least midday Friday, as the US and its allies contemplate missile strikes in the war-torn country.

Despite the resolution, the Assad regime last month launched a major ground offensive - backed by Russian Federation - aimed at capturing Eastern Ghouta's last opposition strongholds.

Haley blasted Russia for protecting Syria and said Moscow has emboldened Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime to continue its attacks, while the Russian ambassador to the United Nations said Washington had embarked on an "illegal military adventure". Most members of Congress - Democrats as well as his fellow Republicans - praised Trump after the strike past year.


The U.S., United Kingdom and France carried out the strikes in the early morning hours on targets that U.S. officials said were linked to a Syrian government chemical weapons program.

"The situation in the world is becoming more and more chaotic but all the same we hope that common sense will finally prevail and worldwide relations will take a constructive path", he said.

KELEMEN: And she says if the US and its partners act, it will be to uphold worldwide norms.

A European source said European governments were waiting for the OPCW to carry out its investigation and for more solid forensic evidence from the attack to emerge. He added in a statement, "We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences". That incident, which killed hundreds, also took place in Eastern Ghouta.

Aggravating the volatile situation in the region, Iran - Assad's other main ally - threatened to respond to an air strike on a Syrian military base on Monday that Tehran, Damascus and Moscow have blamed on Israel. "But should the United States and our allies decide to act in Syria, it will be in defense of a principle on which we all agree", Haley said. TASS news agency quoted him as saying he believed common sense would prevail.

Civilian flights were "already severely limited" over northern Syria for at least the past two years, as a civil war raged there, and only occasionally crossed the southern part of the country to serve Damascus or reach destinations such as Lebanon, Flightradar said in a blog post. May "on the need to take action and deter the further use of chemical weapons".

A United Nations chemical weapons expert, wearing a gas mask, holds a plastic bag containing samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus August 29, 2013.


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