Russia, US headed for United Nations showdown over Syria gas attacks probe

Syrian pro-government troops

Russian Federation and the US have failed to resolve a dispute over extending the mandate of a UN-backed investigative team that blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces for a chemical weapons attack in April that killed more than 80 people.

"The only victors would be people who want to use chemical weapons in Syria, which is the Assad regime plus Daesh, and I think everyone in the Security Council would be shooting ourselves in the foot if we allowed that to happen", said British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft.

Russia, which is Syria's most important ally, has submitted a rival draft resolution on renewing the experts' mandate to the Security Council.

If the Security Council can not agree on a renewal, its mandate will expire at midnight Thursday.

The Russian draft, by contrast, requests the JIM to visit Khan Sheikhoun and re-evaluate its findings.

"The United States hopes the Security Council will stand united in the face of chemical weapons use against civilians and extend the work of this critical group", said the USA mission in a statement.

But the US draft would support the JIM's experts pursuing investigations "in a manner they deem appropriate".

Russian Federation has sharply criticised the JIM after its latest report blamed the Syrian air force for a sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun that left scores dead.

It also would order the JIM to be guided by the "high standards" in the Chemical Weapons Convention and using additional evidence in its investigations.

Washington and its allies have blamed Assad's government for the Khan Sheikhun attack, but Syria has denied using chemical weapons, with strong backing from Russian Federation.

The inquiry, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), found the Syrian government used the banned nerve agent sarin in an April 4 attack.

Trump said on Twitter that the joint inquiry by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which decided who is to blame, was needed to prevent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons. Whereas the Russian draft provided for improvement of the JIM's work, the U.S. insisted to leave things as they were. But she claimed the Russian draft would keep Syria from being investigated and said Russia is continuing "to push unacceptable language only meant to undermine the investigators and divide this council".

Britain's United Nations ambassador told reporters Tuesday that it's extremely important that everyone who uses chemical weapons in Syria or elsewhere is held accountable, and the JIM is crucial in determining responsibility.

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