Moscow says there&’s proof that rebels used chemical weapons; USA maintains its aggressive posture
Agence France-Presse
Damascus, 18 September
Damascus and key ally Moscow joined forces today in a bid to thwart plans for a Western-backed UN resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons that allows the use of force.
Russia came out swinging, saying the Syrian regime had handed over new evidence implicating the rebels in an 21 August sarin gas attack near Damascus that killed hundreds, while slamming a UN report into the incident as “biased”.
Syria, boosted by a visit to Damascus by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, thanked Moscow for its support and said it was confident the UN would not adopt a Chapter VII resolution that would allow the use of force.
The twin-pronged diplomatic counter-offensive came as UN chemical weapons inspectors confirmed they would be returning to Syria for additional investigations into the use of the deadly weapons in the country’s conflict.
Russia and the United States continued to trade accusations about who was to blame for the sarin attack that the chemical weapons inspectors confirmed in a report this week.
Despite having jointly agreed on a deal under which Syria will turn over its chemical weapons stock, the two nations remain at loggerheads over who carried out the attack.
Russia says the Syrian regime had handed over new evidence implicating the rebels in the deadly incident.
But US President Mr Barack Obama has said it was “inconceivable” that anyone other than the Syrian regime could have carried out the attack.
The international community is also divided over the wording of a UN Security Council resolution on the US-Russian deal, with Moscow strongly opposing a Chapter VII resolution.
Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Mr Faisal Muqdad, told AFP today that Damascus was confident the UN would not adopt a Chapter VII resolution.
“I think this is a big lie used by the Western powers; we believe it will never be used,” he said in Damascus.
“There is no justification for that, and the Russian-American agreement does not have such a thing,” he added.
Terming the use of chemical weapons in Syria as “tip of the iceberg”, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for unity among Security Council members for an “enforceable” resolution to end the crisis in the troubled country. Mr Ban said he will use his meetings with world leaders during the General Assembly next week to a make a “strong appeal” for “action now”.
“This is a crucial period for global cooperation. Syria is the biggest peace, security and humanitarian challenge we face. Let us be clear: the use of chemical weapons in Syria is only the tip of the iceberg,” Mr Ban said here yesterday.
Asserting that the suffering in Syria must end, Mr Ban said he was encouraged by the framework agreement reached between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on dealing with Syria’s chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, UN chemical weapons inspectors will return to Syria soon to investigate various accusations against the regime and the Opposition, their chief said today.  “Yes we will be returning to Syria. Our planning isn’t finished yet, so I can’t say when we will be going, but it will be soon,” UN chief inspector Aake Sellstroem said. His team, which went to Syria last month, concluded in a report presented on 16 September that banned chemical weapons were used on a wide scale in the Syrian civil war.
There was clear evidence sarin gas killed hundreds of people in an attack on Ghouta near Damascus on 21 August, the report said. “The report that was presented was an interim report,” Dr Sellstroem said.
“There have been other accusations presented to the UN Secretary-General, dating back to March, against both sides” in the conflict, he said.
There were 13 or 14 accusations that “have to be investigated”, he added.
A UN-mandated independent commission of inquiry into rights violations in the Syrian conflict said on Monday it was investigating 14 alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
Even as diplomatic paralyses continues at the United Nations, the White House has said the USA would maintain its aggressive military posture against Syria.
“The force posture remains the same. And the threat of military force, the military option remains on the table,” the White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters at his news conference.
Mr Carney said it is this military posture which has forced the Assad regime to acknowledge the presence of chemical weapons and agree to dismantle and destroy them under international control.
“And we are working very closely with our partners in New York at the United Nations as well as, obviously, with the Russians, to move forward on implementing that agreement,” Mr Carney said.