Britain, Russia clash over Syria at chemical weapons body


AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Britain accused Russia on Thursday of carrying out a “thinly veiled political attack” on the head of the world’s chemical weapons watchdog, escalating a row over the agency’s investigation into toxic attacks in Syria.

The comments, made during a session at the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), were the latest sign of deep political division at the body over the Syrian conflict.

In an Oct. 26 report the U.N.-OPCW investigation team blamed the Syrian government for an April 4 attack using the banned nerve agent sarin in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, killing around 80 people. The Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons and Moscow rejected the findings.

The mechanism was established in 2015 by the U.N. Security Council to identify individuals, organizations or governments responsible for chemical attacks in Syria. Its mandate expires on Nov. 17, but its work is incomplete.

Moscow is poised to veto efforts by Britain, France, Germany and the United States to extend the mandate.

U.S. representative Kenneth Ward told delegates at a meeting of the OPCW’s 41-member executive council that they were fighting for the future of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the watchdog’s founding treaty.