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Russia casts UN veto to block Syria gas attacks probe

The UN's OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism found in October 2017 that Damascus was behind the Khan Sheikhun toxic gas attack attack that April
Omar haj kadour (AFP/File)
Addressing the council, US Ambassador Nikki Haley described the veto as a 'deep blow'

Russia on Thursday cast its veto at the UN Security Council to block the extension of a UN-led investigation to determine who is behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

It was the 10th time that Russia has used its veto power to stop council action that targeted its ally Syria.

Eleven of the council's 15 members voted in favour of the US-drafted resolution to allow the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) to continue its work of identifying perpetrators of Syria's toxic gas attacks.

Egypt and China abstained, while Bolivia joined Russia in voting against the measure.

Addressing the council, US Ambassador Nikki Haley described the veto as a "deep blow". 

"Russia has killed the investigative mechanism which has overwhelming support of this council," she said.

Russia and the United States had put forward rival draft resolutions on renewing for a year the mandate of the JIM panel, but Russia withdrew its text at the last minute.

A resolution requires nine votes to be adopted at the council, but five countries -- Russia, Britain, China, France and the United States -- can block adoption with their veto power.

Russia has sharply criticized 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.

The attack on April 4 triggered global outrage as images of dying children were shown worldwide, prompting the United States to launch missile strikes on a Syrian air base a few days later.

The joint UN-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) panel was set up by Russia and the United States in 2015 and unanimously endorsed by the council, which renewed its mandate last year.

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