U.N. Security Council to vote on Syria sanctions over chemical weapons -diplomat

by Reuters
Thursday, 23 February 2017 22:06 GMT

By Rodrigo Campos

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 23 (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council will likely vote on a resolution to blacklist 11 Syrian military commanders and officials over chemical weapons attacks as early as next week, a diplomat said on Thursday.

The draft resolution also seeks to ban the sale or supply of helicopters to the Syrian government and to blacklist 10 government and related entities involved in the development and production of chemical weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

It calls for an asset freeze and travel ban for the individuals and entities across all U.N. member states.

A joint inquiry by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found that Syrian government forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks and that Islamic State militants had used mustard gas, according to reports seen by Reuters in August and October.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government has denied its forces have used chemical weapons.

Chlorine's use as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013. If inhaled, chlorine gas turns into hydrochloric acid in the lungs and can kill by burning lungs and drowning victims in the resulting body fluids.

The U.N. vote could coincide with talks between representatives of Assad's government and his opponents with U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura, which started on Thursday in Geneva.

The Security Council diplomat said the draft resolution would be brought to a vote next week unless a "really compelling argument" against it emerged from the talks.

The draft resolution, a French and British initiative, would also be supported by the United States, the diplomat said on condition of anonymity, and likely vetoed by Russia, the main foreign backer of Assad's government.

The U.S. and Russian delegations to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

When a draft was discussed informally by the Security Council last December, Russia made clear it would not support the text. The schedule for the vote was not yet known.

Following the U.N.-OPCW investigation, the United States in January blacklisted 18 senior Syrian officials it said were connected to the country's weapons of mass destruction program.

At least nine of the 11 officials in the U.N. draft resolution were also blacklisted by the U.S. government.

The nearly six-year-long conflict in Syria has killed at least 300,000 people and displaced millions, according to groups that monitor the war. (Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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