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Russia Rejects U.S.-European Plan to Enforce Syria Measure at UN

Rebel fighters prepare mortar rounds in Raqqa, Syria, on September 3, 2013. Photographer: Mezar Matar/AFP via Getty Images
Rebel fighters prepare mortar rounds in Raqqa, Syria, on September 3, 2013. Photographer: Mezar Matar/AFP via Getty Images

Sept. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Russia rejected a U.S. and European plan to include enforcement in a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syrian chemical weapons disarmament, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Western actions are “irresponsible and unprofessional,” Lavrov said in an interview with Russia’s Channel One published on the Foreign Ministry’s website yesterday. They want to “drive through a resolution based on force” and that blames President Bashar al-Assad for everything, he said.

The U.S., U.K. and France have accused Syrian government forces of carrying out an Aug. 21 chemical attack that killed 1,400 people, including more than 400 children. Assad has blamed rebel groups for the attack.

The U.S., France and the U.K. want a resolution this week that provides enforcement to the terms of the Geneva accord between the U.S. and Russia. Efforts to agree on a resolution have encountered headwinds from Russia, Assad’s strongest ally, which opposes any measure with a threat of force. The Security Council is set to negotiate a resolution this week, as world leaders travel to New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Sept. 20 it had “received an initial disclosure from the Syrian government of its chemical weapons program.” The Sept. 14 U.S.-Russian agreement, which averted an American military strike on Assad’s government, called for an itemization of Syria’s poison gas stocks by Sept. 21.

‘Initial Disclosure’

Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser, said Sept. 20 that it was “a positive step” for Syria to submit the list within the period outlined in the agreement, which calls for the Arab country to turn over its chemical weapons to international control for eventual destruction.

“There needs to be consequences for noncompliance,” Rhodes told reporters on a conference call. “We would want to see the strongest enforcement possible.”

In an interview with China Central Television aired today, Assad said his nation’s army has found raw materials for chemical weapons in rebel-held areas. He said Syria stopped producing chemical weapons about 15 years ago and his army can obtain anti-aircraft weapons from Russia if necessary, according to the CCTV interview.

The executive council of the chemical weapons organization in The Hague, which would oversee Syria’s disarmament, said Sept. 20 it postponed a meeting on Syria and is aiming for a new date in the middle of this week.

Russia has had close ties with Syria since Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, took power in a coup in 1970. Russia has been a major arms provider to the regime and maintains its only military base outside the former Soviet Union at Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartus.

“Our American partners are trying to blackmail us,” Lavrov said. The U.S. is saying that “unless Russia accepts to adopt this resolution under Chapter 7, we will stop the work of the OPCW in The Hague,” he said referring to the UN charter’s chapter, which lays out provisions that have been used to justify armed interventions since the Korean War.

Discussion

“This is absolutely contrary to what we agreed with John Kerry -- first the decision of the OPCW and only then a resolution in the UN Security Council to support it, but not under Chapter 7,” Lavrov said.

The Russian foreign minister spoke by phone yesterday with Secretary of State Kerry at the request of the U.S. to discuss the implementation of the chemical disarmament plan for Syria, according to the website of the Foreign Ministry in Moscow.

The U.S. and France hadn’t presented any evidence to Russia that Syrian government forces carried out the Aug. 21 chemical attack, Lavrov said in the interview. “All information they have released so far to back up their claim hasn’t been convincing,” he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net; Glen Carey in Riyadh at gcarey8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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