US 'locked and loaded' if Syria uses chemical weapons again; UN Council rejects Russia resolution condemning airstrikes

The UN Security Council has rejected a resolution tabled by Russia calling for condemnation of the "aggression" by the United States and its allies against Syria.

Only three countries - Russia, China and Bolivia - voted in favour of the resolution at the end of an emergency meeting of the 15-member council called by Russia on Saturday. Eight countries voted against and three abstained.

A resolution needs at least nine "yes" votes to be approved.

The vote reflected the deep divisions in the UN's most powerful body, which has been paralysed in dealing with the seven-year Syrian conflict and chemical weapons use in the country.

The US, Britain and France say they launched airstrikes against Syrian chemical sites after obtaining "proof" that poisonous gas was used last weekend in Douma, killing 41 civilians.

Russia and Syria claim the attack was fabricated.

A satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows the Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons Storage Facility in Syria on Saturday.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the UN meeting in New York that the US and its allies struck without waiting for an investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, branding the attack "hooliganism".

But the US ambassador to the UN said President Donald Trump told her if the Syrian regime uses poisonous gas again, "the United States is locked and loaded" to strike again.

Nikki Haley said: "When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line."

She said the message from airstrikes that "crippled Syria's chemical weapons program" was "crystal clear".

"The United States of America will not allow the Assad regime to continue using chemical weapons."

She accused Russia of defending Syrian President Bashar Assad and failing to ensure that Syria's chemical weapons were destroyed as the Assad regime had pledged in 2013.

Looking ahead, France's UN ambassador Francois Delattre said France, Britain and the United States would soon be presenting the Security Council with a new draft resolution aimed at achieving a lasting solution to the Syrian conflict that addresses political, chemical and humanitarian issues.

Syrian-Americans express their anger at the missile strikes on their homeland during an anti-war rally opposing the military strikes by Western countries in Syria, in downtown Los Angeles, Saturday. Pic: AP

A draft resolution circulated by the three countries would condemn all use of chemical weapons, especially the April 7 attack in Douma.

It would seek answers from Syria on gaps in its chemical weapons declaration to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. And it would establish a new body to determine responsibility for chemical attacks, call for a cease-fire in Syria, unimpeded access for all humanitarian aid, and an urgent resumption of negotiations on a political settlement.

Mr Nebenzia responded saying the environment was "not very conducive for any rapprochement" and "the political and dangerous military situation we are in now" must be sorted out first.

"Once again, we demand an immediate stop to aggression and refrain from the illegal use of force in the future," he said.


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