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U.S. Envoy: Russia Shielded Assad From 'Justice' on Chemical Strikes

By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power addresses the U.N. Security Council on Thursday. Power condemned Russia's veto of a measure to refer the Syrian civil war to the International Criminal Court. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power addresses the U.N. Security Council on Thursday. Power condemned Russia's veto of a measure to refer the Syrian civil war to the International Criminal Court. (U.N. photo)

A senior U.S. envoy accused Russia of giving its Syrian ally international cover for its alleged past use of chemical weapons against opponents.

Ambassador Samantha Power leveled the assertion on Thursday, after Moscow and Beijing blocked approval of a U.N. Security Council proposal for the International Criminal Court to examine possible violations of international law in Syria's 3-year-old civil war. More than 160,000 people have died in the conflict, a British watchdog organization said this week.

"Because of the decision by the Russian Federation to back the Syrian regime no matter what it does, the Syrian people will not see justice today," said Power, Washington's chief delegate to the United Nations.

The diplomat said President Bashar Assad's government has "carried out chemical-weapons attacks and barrel-bomb attacks with the full confidence that meaningful action by this council would be obstructed."

According to the U.S. diplomat, Russia's vote silenced victims of a nerve-agent strike that killed hundreds of people last summer. Moscow has joined the regime in blaming rebel forces for any use of chemical arms in the conflict.

"The representatives from Syria, and perhaps Russia, may suggest that the resolution voted on today was biased," Power said. "I agree -- it was biased in the direction of establishing facts."

Moscow adopted a different tack, by praising a joint chemical-arms disarmament initiative devised after the Aug. 21 sarin-gas strike. The attack initially prompted U.S. discussion of a potential military response, but those threats subsided after Damascus agreed to a Russian-U.S. plan for dismantling its chemical-arsenal under international supervision.

"When that unity is present we manage to achieve concrete positive results," Vitaly Churkin, Russia's U.N. representative, said in a statement to the Security Council after the vote.

The Russian envoy then singled out France, the author of Thursday's draft resolution.

Alluding to comments made by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on more recent chemical-strike allegations, Churkin accused the top French diplomat of exploiting "his recent visit to Washington to criticize the United States for refusing to shower missiles and bombs on Syria last fall."

The Russian diplomat also noted that the United States has been "reluctant" to recognize the International Criminal Court. The tribunal is based The Hague, Netherlands.

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