March 2, 2018 / 3:24 AM / 2 months ago

U.S. hopes for U.N. vote on new Syria toxic gas inquiry next week

(Reuters) - The United States wants the United Nations Security Council to create a new inquiry into who is to blame for chemical weapons attacks in Syria, and U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Thursday she hopes to put it to a vote as early as next week.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley delivers a joint message with Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernandez at the presidential house in Tegucigalpa, Honduras February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera

A previous international investigation, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), ended in November after Russia blocked for the third time in a month attempts to renew the inquiry, which Moscow has slammed as flawed.

Russia then in January proposed its own draft resolution to create a new inquiry, but has never put it to a vote. The United States slammed the Russian text as a bid to distract from a French initiative to target perpetrators of toxic gas attacks.

“When the Russians put their mechanism forward that’s a non-starter and so that’s why we’re coming back out with another one,” Haley told Reuters. “We’ve been working on it since the JIM was killed.”

“We’ve taken into account certain things that (the Russians)thought were an issue, but if they want no mechanism at all they’ll veto it,” Haley said.

The previous joint inquiry of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had found the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in an April 4, 2017 attack and has also several times used chlorine as a weapon. It blamed Islamic State militants for mustard gas use.

The U.S. draft resolution was discussed by experts from U.N. Security Council missions on Thursday, but diplomats said Russia did not attend.

The U.S. draft text, seen by Reuters, proposes the creation of a U.N. Independent Mechanism of Investigation for one year, which would identify who is responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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