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UN members: Assad regime not answering chemical weapons questions

Syria plunged to war when the Assad regime responded to protests with brutal tactics [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 July, 2018

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Sweden's UN ambassador Olof Skoog says "there are a lot of uncertainties" in Syria's declaration to the OPCW.

Members of the United Nations Security Council said Syria is still failing to answer questions about its chemical weapons program, years after becoming a party to the chemical weapons convention.

Sweden's UN Ambassador Olof Skoog said many council members raised the issue during Tuesday's closed meeting on Syria's chemical weapons where UN disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitsu gave a briefing by video.

Skoog said "there are a lot of uncertainties" in Syria's declaration to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of its chemical weapons program, "and that is part of the problem."

The international community last week endowed the global chemical weapons watchdog with new powers to identify those behind toxic arms attacks in Syria, prompting an angry Russia to say it would not rule out leaving what it called a "sinking Titanic".

After two days of tense talks and in face of stiff opposition from Moscow and Damascus, a British-led proposal to strengthen the mandate of the OPCW passed by 82 votes in favour with 24 against.

The OPCW now "has a crucial extra power, not just to identify the use of chemical weapons, but also to point the finger at the organisation, the state that they think is responsible," said British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

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