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Russia on Thursday presented a draft resolution to the Security Council accusing the UN’s chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW, of politicization just before a new probe begins of chemical attacks in Syria.
The draft text, seen by AFP, states that the Council — where Russia holds veto power — is the only international body that can impose measures on countries that violate the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) agreed last year to set up a mechanism that would identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks, a move bitterly opposed by Russia and Syria.
The proposed resolution notes “with concern the continuing politicization of the work of the OPCW and growing deviation from the established practice of taking consensus-based decisions.”
UN diplomats said the Russian proposal was aimed at keeping the OPCW in check as it pushes ahead with the investigation to uncover those behind chemical weapons use in Syria.
“What it’s really about of course is the Russians trying to strangle OPCW,” said a diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The West pushed through the new blaming powers after OPCW reports confirmed chemical weapons use in Syria, as well as a nerve agent attack on Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury in March 2018.
“The Russian rationale is to weaken the OPCW and the Chemical Weapons Convention, with an eye on Syria but also Salisbury,” said another diplomat.
Time frame for resolution
It remained unclear when the draft resolution would be put to a vote. UN resolutions require nine votes and no vetoes to be adopted in the council.
The proposed resolution is backed by China, diplomats said.
“This looks like a desperate bid to prevent further confirmation that the Syrian government, like ISIS, repeatedly used chemical weapons in violation of international law,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director for Human Rights Watch.
The Russian mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.
OPCW chief Fernando Arias said in March that the new investigation of chemical attacks in Syria would begin in the coming weeks.
Western countries are calling on the team to start work on identifying the culprits behind a deadly attack in the Syrian town of Douma in April 2018.
The United States, Britain and France launched a one-off missile strike on Syria in April last year in response to the use of chemical weapons in Douma.
The OPCW said in a report that chlorine was likely used in that attack, which killed more than 40 people, but Russia and Syria have rejected those findings.
The report did not specify who was behind the Douma attack as it was not in the OPCW’s mandate at the time.
In 2015, the council unanimously agreed to establish the OPCW-UN joint investigative mechanism (JIM) to identify those responsible for chemical attacks in Syria.
But in late 2017, Russia vetoed a bid to renew the mandate of the JIM after the panel blamed the Syrian government for chlorine attacks and for using sarin in a deadly assault on the town of Khan Sheikhun that same year.
Russia has used its veto 12 times at the council to shield its Syrian ally from international action. (VOA)
Interestingly, ordinary Wi-Fi can easily identify weapons, bombs and explosive chemicals in bags just anywhere, be it a crowded stadium, or museums, theme parks, schools and other public spaces, a new study reveals.
The researchers’ suspicious detection object is easy to set up, reduces security screening costs and avoids invading privacy such as when screeners open and inspect bags, backpacks and luggage. Traditional screening generally requires high staffing levels and costlier specialized equipment.
“This could have a great impact in protecting the public from dangerous objects. There’s a growing need for that now”, said study author, Yingying Chen.
The study reveals that Wi-Fi, or wireless, signals in most public places can penetrate bags to get the dimensions of dangerous metal objects and detect them, including weapons, aluminium cans, laptops and batteries for bombs. Wi-Fi can also be used to estimate the volume of liquids such as water, acid, alcohol and other chemicals for explosives.
This low-cost system requires a Wi-Fi device with two to three antennas and can be integrated into existing Wi-Fi networks. The system analyzes what happens when wireless signals penetrate and bounce off objects and materials.
Experiments were done with 15 types of objects and six types of bags demonstrating detection accuracy rates of 99 percent for dangerous objects, 98 percent for metal and 95 percent for liquid. For typical backpacks, the accuracy rate exceeds 95 percent and drops to about 90 percent when objects inside bags are wrapped.
“In large public areas, it’s hard to set up expensive screening infrastructure like what’s in airports. Manpower is always needed to check bags and we wanted to develop a complementary method to try to reduce manpower,” concluded Chen.
Next steps include trying to boost accuracy in detecting objects by imaging their shapes and estimating liquid volumes.
The study was performed at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. It also received the best paper award at the 2018 IEEE Conference on Communications and Network Security on cybersecurity. (IANS)
Syria, April 15, 2017: Russia, Syria and Iran have warned the United States against launching new strikes on Syria and called for an international investigation into the chemical weapons attack in Syria.
The foreign ministers from Russia, Syria and Iran, meeting Friday in Moscow, said any further unilateral action by the U.S. in Syria would be met with “grave consequences” and pose a danger to the entire world.
The U.S. fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria’s al-Shayrat air base last week in response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria days earlier.
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the circumstances surrounding the chemical attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 people were still not clear.
He criticized the world’s chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, for not sending experts to the site of the attack to investigate.
“We consider it unacceptable to analyze events from a distance,” he said. Lavrov said the investigation should also be widened to include experts from many nations.
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Russia has rejected accusations from Western countries that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind the attack. Russia has alleged that the victims were killed when Syrian warplanes hit a rebel chemical arsenal. The U.S. accuses Assad of deliberately launching the attack.
“The use of chemical weapons as a pretext for violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of an independent state — a member of the United Nations — is a very dangerous activity,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said. “It is essential to prevent such acts as the events in Khan Sheikhoun in [the] future.”
Lavrov said the U.S. missile strike on Syria was Washington seeking “excuses for regime change.” He added, “These attempts will not succeed, this will not happen.”
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Lavrov met Friday with his counterparts from Syria and Iran after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Moscow earlier this week. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Friday’s meeting sent a “strong message” to Washington.
Russia and Iran are strong allies of Assad’s government and have backed the president during Syria’s six-year civil war. (VOA)
Washington, April 8, 2017: A White House official said Donald Trump’s tweets in 2013 arguing against military action in Syria should not be held against him because he was not the President then, a media report said.
“I think you’d admit that the things you say when you’re in a certain situation without the requisite experience that may come later shouldn’t be held against you,” Trump’s Deputy Assistant, Sebastian Gorka, said on Friday.
“You may have great ideas about what it means to be a parent, but you have no idea what it means to bear the responsibility once you have children. This is the same situation.”
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Gorka said Trump’s perspective is different as President, CNN reported.
“What one says as a businessman…or what one says on the campaign trail in a politically charged environment for a year, is incredibly different to the perspective you may have after you take on the mantle of the commander-in-chief, and you are the person responsible for the safety of all Americans,” Gorka said.
“That’s what experience tells us, and to judge based on statements they made when they were not in that position of responsibility.”
Trump’s past tweets arguing against intervention in Syria resurfaced on Thursday, when Trump ordered a missile strike on a Syrian airfield in response to the chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime on a rebel stronghold that killed over 80 civilians, including children. (IANS)