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Russia vetoes UN sanctions on Syria over chemical weapons

Russia says there is not enough proof Syrian government forces dropped banned chlorine gas on its enemies. It is the seventh vote on Syrian sanctions that Russia has vetoed.

Russia and China vetoed on Tuesday a United Nations resolution that sought to impose sanctions on Syria over chemical weapons use.

The draft resolution would have banned the sale or supply of helicopters to the Syrian government, and would have placed targeted travel bans and asset freezes on Syrian military and government officers. It came after an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The UN found Syrian government forces had used helicopters to drop barrel bombs containing chlorine gas.

Nine countries voted in favor of the Security Council resolution drafted by Britain, France and the United States, while three countries opposed it - China, Russia and Bolivia. Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and Egypt abstained. A UN resolution requires nine positive votes and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China in order for it to be adopted.

It was the seventh time Russia used its veto power to shield the Damascus regime.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Russia bore a "heavy responsibility towards the Syrian people and humanity as a whole" for vetoing the vote.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned earlier that imposing sanctions on Syria was "completely inappropriate" with ongoing peace talks in Geneva.

UN Sicherheitsrat in New York (Reuters/M. Segar)

It was one of the first clashes between the UN and Russia since US President Donald Trump took power, vowing closer relations with Mowscow

US Ambassador Nikki Haley countered after the failed the vote that "this resolution is very appropriate."

"It is a sad day on the Security Council when members start making excuses for other member states killing their own people," she said. "The world is definitely a more dangerous place," she told the council after the measure was rejected.

The vote was one of the first confrontations at the UN between Russia and the US since President Donald Trump took office in January.

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Chlorine gas deployed in Aleppo? Christoph Reuter reports from Beirut

'God will judge you'

Russia's Deputy UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov described the statements made against Moscow in the Security Council as "outrageous" and declared that "God will judge you."

"Today's clash or confrontation is not a result of our negative vote. It is a result of the fact that you decided on provocation while you knew well ahead of time our position," said Safronkov.

British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the council before the vote: "This is about taking a stand when children are poisoned. It's that simple. It's about taking a stand when civilians are maimed and murdered with toxic weapons."

The weaponized use of chlorine, which turns into hydrochloric acid when inhaled, is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013.

aw/jm (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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