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Security Council 'paralyzed' on new Syria probe amid US-Russia discord

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The United Nationals Security Council remained "paralyzed" on investigating the recent alleged chemical weapons use in Syria with Russia and the United States continuing to shoot down each other's proposals Tuesday.

Russia on Tuesday vetoed a US-drafted resolution on investigating reports of the recent chemical attack in Douma, a town located northeast of Syrian capital Damascus.

While 12 of the 15 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the US text, Russia and Bolivia voted against it and China abstained. The draft failed to be adopted as Russia has veto power.

Before the vote, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said her delegation had tried hard to incorporate the Russian proposals into the draft so long as they did not compromise the impartiality of the investigation.

She said the US text was "the bare minimum" that the Security Council could do to respond to the chemical attack reports.

Russia tabled a draft resolution of its own for the same purpose but that too was rejected.

Haley said the main difference between the two texts was that Russia wanted to choose the investigators and assess the outcome while the US text was for a truly independent investigation.

"Our resolutions are similar, but there are important differences. The key point is our resolution guarantees that any investigations will truly be independent. Russia's resolution gives Russia itself the chance to choose the investigators and then to assess the outcome. There is nothing independent about that," she told the Security Council.

"The United States is not asking to choose the investigators, and neither should Russia. The United States is not asking to review the findings of any investigation before they are final, and neither should Russia," she said.

Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia, who spoke after Haley, argued that the US draft prejudges the outcome of the investigation.

"Why do you need the mechanism, what do you need it for, when you have already appointed the guilty party prior to the investigation?" he asked.

Nebenzia accused the United States of pushing for a vote as a pretext for possible use of force against Syria.

"If you took the decision to carry out an illegal military adventure -- ... then you will have to bear responsibility for it yourselves," he warned.

"We do hope you will come to your senses," Nebenzia said.

Last year, the United States launched missile strikes against a Syrian airbase from two navy destroyers after the Syrian Government was alleged to have used chemical weapons, leading to civilian fatalities.

"The United States is again trying to mislead the international community and is taking yet one more step toward confrontation," Nebenzia said. "It is clear that the provocation ... has nothing to do with a desire to investigate what happened in Douma."

"The propaganda fire will be once again aimed at Russia (because of its veto). ... We are using the veto in order to protect the international rule of law, peace and security and to make sure that you do not drag the Security Council into your (American) adventures," he said.

Tuesday's veto by Russia was its 12th over Security Council action against Syria since the Syrian civil war started seven years ago.

Russia's draft was voted on later on Tuesday, receiving six votes in favor and seven against with two abstentions.

To be adopted, a draft needs nine votes, including from all the five permanent members of the council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Russia tabled a second draft resolution for vote on Tuesday for an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the watchdog of the Chemical Weapons Convention, into the chemical attack allegations.

It too failed to pass the threshold of nine. While Britain, France, the United States and Poland voted against it, six others abstained.

Right before the vote on the third text, Swedish Ambassador to the United Nations Olof Skoog requested a suspension of the meeting for extra consultations.

"We are at a very fragile phase of council deliberations now and we need to reflect carefully on the way forward to ensure that we don't jump into further paralysis (that is) difficult to defend or repair," Skoog said.

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.

A joint OPCW and United Nations investigation earlier had found that both the Syrian Government and the Islamic State terrorist group used chemical weapons in Syria. The investigation mechanism ended in November 2017 after Russia blocked the renewal of its mandate.

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