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The US vows to keep the Syrian chemical weapons program in the UN spotlight over Russian and Chinese opposition

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States and its allies vowed Tuesday to keep Syria’s failure to account for its chemical weapons program a monthly spotlight in the UN Security Council, despite opposition from Russia and China.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the council that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad has “repeatedly lied to the international community” and to investigators from the International Chemical Weapons Watchdog, who have confirmed that they have used these banned weapons at least nine times. have used.

She said the Biden administration will continue to demand a full accounting of Syria, as it promised after joining the Chemical Weapons Convention in September 2013, when it was pressured by its close ally Russia after a deadly chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. the West blamed Damascus.

For the first time, Russia and China declined to speak at the monthly meeting on the Syrian chemical weapons issue, saying they are repetitive and should be pushed back.

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Syrian minister’s adviser Alhakan Dandy did speak, saying his country was surprised at this month’s meeting “as there have been no developments that would require it” except for what he called continued efforts by the United States “to to exploit the chemical weapons stock to serve their agenda of hostility against Syria.”

He reiterated Syria’s condemnation of the use of chemical weapons, calling claims it used such weapons in Ghouta, where more than 1,400 people were killed, “lies”. He also insisted that the Syrian army does not possess chemical weapons.

Dandy said Syria has been cooperating with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which oversees implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. But he also accused his investigators of being politicized and “using unprofessional working practices and double standards”.

However, UN Deputy Chief of Disarmament Adedeji Ebo told the council that Syria has again failed to provide the OPCW with a full account of its program, citing “lacunae, inconsistencies and discrepancies” in its statement.

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He cited unanswered questions about activities at the Syrian Center for Scientific Investigation and Research “and the declaration of the quantities of nerve agent produced at a chemical weapons production plant that was declared by the Syrian Arab Republic as never having been used to produce chemical weapons. produce.”

Ebo reiterated the UN’s repeated call for Syria to “respond urgently” to all OPCW questions.

Syrian representatives met with a delegation from the OPCW’s technical secretariat in Beirut on June 22-23, and Ebo said Syria was committed to presenting proposals for better implementation of its commitments. He said that the OPCW is waiting for a message from Damascus about resuming consultations.

Thomas-Greenfield regretted that two permanent councillors, whom she did not name, did not speak. Russia and China were the only countries to remain silent.

“The Assad regime is betting that this council will just move on,” she said. “Hopefully we change the subject.”

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“We must not succumb to fatigue or, worse, indifference. The Assad regime used weapons of mass destruction against its own people. … And we will not go further, and the regime will not escape its responsibility,” said the US ambassador.

There was broad support from other council members that Syria should answer all questions from the OPCW, although the United Arab Emirates, the Arab representative on the council, said the council should discuss the chemical weapons issue in Syria every three months, not every month.

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