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U.S. And Russia Face Off Over Syria At U.N. Security Council Meeting


The U.S. and Russia are facing off at the U.N. Security Council. This comes as the Trump administration considers military action against Syria. Russia has vetoed a resolution that would have investigated chemical weapons use in Syria and try to figure out who was responsible for it. Russia denies that there was a chemical attack over the weekend in Douma. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, says it's the least the Security Council could do - give investigators the tools they need to look into chemical weapons use in Syria and to assign blame. But last year, when experts reported that both Syria and ISIS had used chemical weapons, Russia voted to end that investigation. And since then, Haley says, Russia continues to shield Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


NIKKI HALEY: History will record that on this day, Russia chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people.

KELEMEN: Haley says she tried to accommodate Russian views, but at some point, she adds, either you support an impartial investigation or you don't.


HALEY: Russia has trashed the credibility of the council. They are not interested in unity or compromise.

KELEMEN: Russia's ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, though, argues that the U.S. forced the vote knowing the U.S. draft resolution would fail. And he says, Washington did this in order to justify military action in Syria. Nebenzya says he hopes the Trump administration will, quote, "come to its senses about such an option." Russia says it saw no signs of chemical weapons use in Douma this past weekend. British Ambassador Karen Pierce says Russia is not the one that should be investigating.

KAREN PIERCE: This is a barbaric use of a barbaric weapon against innocent people. We need an investigation to determine who is responsible, and that should be the first step to accountability. The prime minister made very clear that we are in close touch with our allies, including U.S. and France, and we will be talking through next steps with them.

KELEMEN: Russia and Syria have invited in a fact-finding team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert calls the OPCW the gold standard in collecting information. But she wasn't making any promises that the Trump administration would wait to hear what those experts find before deciding on a possible military response. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.


Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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