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Syria chemical attack: UN council vote delayed as talks hit impasse

A vote on the draft text presented by the Western trio could be held as early as Thursday. In photo: The Security Council held emergency talks following one of the worst chemical attacks in Syria. Photograph: (AFP)

AFP United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY, United States Apr 05, 2017, 09.27 PM (IST)

Britain, France and the United States on Wednesday held off calling a vote at the UN Security Council on a resolution demanding an investigation of the suspected chemical attack in Syria. 

The western trio called off talks Wednesday as they need more time to negotiate with Russia over the content of the draft resolution.

While the west blames the Syrian regime for the chemical attack in Syria's Idlib province, Syria and its partner Russia have stoutly denied the accusations.

Moscow, which launched a military intervention in support of the Syrian regime in 2015, has suggested that toxic agents were released after an air strike by the US coalition hit a rebel arsenal. 

The Kremlin also rejected the draft resolution framed by the west, saying it was "categorically unacceptable" and "pre-empts the results of an investigation".

They also threatened to veto the resolution demanding the United Nations to probe the suspected attack. 

Moscow came with a contending draft resolution that did not mention any need for Syria to cooperate with a UN inquiry, unnamed diplomats told AFP.

However, French Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters that negotiations were being held "in a good spirit" and that "there is a chance" for agreement. 

"It's time for action -- no doubt about it," he added.

But other diplomats sounded more pessimistic.

Some felt there was an increasing chance of Moscow vetoing the draft resolution.

"It's not going well," a council diplomat said.

The draft resolution backs a probe by the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and demands that the Syrian government cooperate to provide information about its military operations on the day of the assault.

But diplomats believe that a vote on the draft text presented by the west could be held as early as Thursday.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said he did "not anticipate them (talks) coming to a conclusion today". But he informed that they would continue negotiating with Russia in the Security Council.

At least 86 people died, including 30 children, in a rebel-held town in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. 

Dozens more were left gasping for air, convulsing and foaming at the mouth, doctors said.

It is thought to be the worst chemical weapons attack in Syria since 2013, when sarin gas was used.

The deadlock arrives on a day when the US threatened to take action against Syria on their own if the UN did not respond to the threat.

"When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action," US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley said.

The deadly attack has also seemingly pivoted the US administration's Syria agenda.

US President Donald Trump earlier viewed the defeat of Islamic State as being more important than ousting Syria President Bashar al-Assad.

But the Tuesday attack was condemned by Trump as a "terrible affront to humanity". He also said that the Syrian regime had "crossed a lot of lines" and that his "attitude towards Assad has changed very much".

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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