UNITED NATIONS/WAShington -  Russia on Wednesday vetoed a UN draft resolution demanding the Syrian government cooperate with an investigation of a suspected chemical attack that the West blames on President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

It was the eighth time that Russia has used its veto power at the UN Security Council to block action directed at its ally in Damascus. Britain, France and the United States put forward the measure in response to the suspected sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhun on April 4 that left 87 dead, including 31 children.

China, another veto-holding power at the council, abstained in the vote, as did Kazakhstan and Ethiopia. Bolivia voted against the measure and 10 other council members supported it.

Russia imposed its veto as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said after talks in Moscow that there was a "low level of trust" between the United States and Russia.

The proposed resolution would have condemned the alleged attack and expressed the council's full backing to investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The draft specifically would have demanded that the Syrian government provide flight plans, flight logs and other information on its military operations on April 4, hand over the names of commanders of any aircraft and provide access to air bases to UN investigators.

US WON’T SEND TROOPS

INTO SYRIA: TRUMP

US President Donald Trump has ruled out sending American troops to Syria to fight the government of President Bashar al-Assad, insisting that defeating Daesh/ISIL remains Washington’s first priority.

The president also touched upon other issues such as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support of Syria, North Korea and sweeping domestic reforms as promised on the campaign trail.

“We’re not going into Syria. Our policy is the same — it hasn’t changed. We’re not going into Syria,” Trump told Fox News.

The comments are expected to clear the air amid speculations that last week's US missile attack against a Syrian airfield was the stepping stone for a major invasion.

“What I did should have been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it, and you would have had a much better - I think Syria would be a lot better off right now than it has been,” he said.

Secretary of Defence General James Mattis spoke earlier in the day at a Pentagon news conference about the Syrian chemical weapons attack last week, which killed 86, and the subsequent US response. 

“We are obviously paying close to the environment in the wake of these strikes and remain appropriately postured to respond as necessarily,” he said.

Two US Navy destroyers fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea at al-Shayrat airbase in Homs province in western Syria on April 7. Trump said the attack was in response for an alleged chemical attack that killed over 80 people in Syria last week.

The military action, coupled with American officials’ change of tone over Assad's future, stirred speculation that the US and its Western allies were ready to put boots on the ground in Syria.

“Our big mission is getting rid of ISIS (ISIL),” Trump said. “That’s where it’s always been. But when you see kids choking to death, you watch their lungs burning out, we had to hit him (Assad) and hit him hard.”

Claiming that the US attack was “an act of humanity,” Trump said he reflected a lot on the severity of the strike and came to the conclusion that “this would be the appropriate first shot.”

The new Republican president then focused on Russia, which has been running an aerial campaign against terrorist positions across Syria in coordination with Damascus.

“We’re not exactly on the same wavelength with Russia, to put it mildly,” Trump said, asking President Putin to reconsider his ties with Assad.

The West has been pressuring Russia to withdraw its support for Syria. Both the UK and the US have proposed more sanctions against Putin’s government in case the support continues.

Russia, however, has condemned the US attack, warning that Washington was making the same mistakes it made before invading Iraq in 2003.

Putin said afterwards that the strike had seriously hurt the Russo-American ties.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his visiting American counterpart Rex Tillerson in Moscow on Wednesday that the US should never repeat the "unlawful attack against Syria."

The US has already sent several hundred of its special operation forces to Syria under what it claims is a training mission with Kurdish fighters. The US and its allies have also been carrying out airstrikes against purported Daesh positions in Syria since 2014, without permission from Damascus.

 

 

Special Correspondent/AFP