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Russia Says U.N. Report on Syria Attack Biased

Russia Says U.N. Report on Syria Attack Biased

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Published by: Thavam on Sep 19, 2013
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09/19/2013

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By Steve Gutterman and Oliver Holmes'-
MOSCOW/BEIRUT
| Wed Sep 18, 2013(Reuters) -RussiadenouncedU.N. investigators' findings on a poison gas attack inSyriaas preconceived andtainted by politics on Wednesday, stepping up its criticism of a report Western nationssaid proved President Bashar al-Assad's forces were responsible.Russia, which holds veto power in the U.N. Security Council, could cite doubts aboutproof of culpability in opposing future efforts by the United States, BritainandFranceto punishSyriafor any violations of a deal to abandon chemical weapons. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who negotiated the deal with Washington,said on Tuesday the U.N. report had not dispelledRussiasuspicion that rebels stagedthe attack to try to provoke Western military intervention in the civil war.Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, visitingSyriaas warplanes struck rebel-heldareas and clashes continued unabated on the ground, took Russia's criticism a stepfurther."We are disappointed, to put it mildly, about the approach taken by the U.N. secretariatand the U.N. inspectors, who prepared the report selectively and incompletely,"
 
Ryabkov told the state-run Russian news agency RIA in Damascus."Without receiving a full picture of what is happening here, it is impossible to call thenature of the conclusions reached by the U.N. experts ... anything but politicized,preconceived and one-sided," said Ryabkov, who met Syrian Foreign Minister Walidal-Moualem late on Tuesday and Assad on Wednesday. Assad's government gave Ryabkov what it said was evidence that rebels were behindthe attack, and Lavrov said Russia would present it to the Security Council.SYRIAN THANKSLavrov has said the investigation was incomplete without examination of evidencefrom other sources, including postings on the Internet and an account from nuns, andthat suspicions of chemical arms use after August 21 should also be investigated."We also have information that there have been many incidents like the one in Augustin Ghouta," Lavrov said, referring to the August 21 attack. "We will consider all this inthe Security Council along with the report by the U.N. experts."During Ryabkov's visit, Assad thanked for Moscow's support against what the Syrianleader called Western-backed "terrorism".The report issued on Monday confirmed the nerve agent sarin was used in the August21 attack but did not assign blame. Britain,Franceand the United States said itconfirmed Syria's government was behind it rather than rebels.TheUnited Nationsdefended the report on Wednesday, saying the findings were"indisputable". "They speak for themselves and this was a thoroughly objective reporton that specific incident," spokesman Martin Nesirky said.However, the stark disagreement over blame may complicate discussions amongveto-holding Security Council members - Russia,China, the United States, BritainandFrance- over a Western-drafted resolution to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons.
 
"We are surprised by Russia's attitude because they are calling into question not thereport, but the objectivity of the inspectors," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabiussaid in Paris on Wednesday."I don't think anybody can call into question inspectors that have been appointed bythe U.N.," said Fabius, who met Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday and said severalaspects of the U.N. report clearly pointed to Syrian government involvement.Russia has been Assad's most powerful backer during the conflict that has killed morethan 100,000 people since 2011, delivering weapons and - with China - blockingWestern efforts to use the Security Council's clout to pressure his government.Moscow argues that the danger emanates from rebels, many of whom harbor militantIslamist ambitions for Syria that could ultimately pose a threat both to Russia, which isfighting against Islamist militants on its southern fringe, and the West.In his meeting with Ryabkov, Assad voiced appreciation "for Russia's stances insupport of Syria in the face of the vicious attack and ... terrorism which is backed byWestern, regional and Arab forces", Syrian state news agency SANA said.The draft Security Council resolution is intended to support a U.S.-Russian dealreached on Saturday calling for Syria to account for its chemical weapons within aweek and for their destruction by mid-2014.The accord was based on a Russian proposal announced by Lavrov on September 9and accepted by Assad the following day. AIR STRIKESThe deal halted efforts by U.S. President Barack Obama to win Congressionalapproval for military action to punish Assad for the gas attack, which the United Statessays killed more than 1,400 people in rebel-held areas.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Tuesday for a U.N. resolution with the

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