The White House urged the United Nations to renew the probe into a chemical attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Shaykhun that killed dozens of people last April.

The incident in the town of Khan Sheikhoun was the deadliest chemical attack in Syria since sarin gas killed hundreds of civilians in Ghouta near Damascus in August 2013.
The incident in the town of Khan Sheikhoun was the deadliest chemical attack in Syria since sarin gas killed hundreds of civilians in Ghouta near Damascus in August 2013. (AFP)

The White House admonished Russia on Wednesday after it vetoed a United Nations plan to continue an ongoing investigation that recently found the Syrian regime killed dozens of people with chemical weapons.

Russia cast a veto at the United Nations Security Council eight days ago, preventing the renewal of a mandate for a mission by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) – which investigates the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

"Russia’s attempts to undermine and eliminate the JIM show a callous disregard for the suffering and loss of life caused by the use of chemical weapons and an utter lack of respect for international norms," the White House said in a statement.

The JIM found that the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad is to blame for a chemical attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Shaykhun that killed dozens of people last April, according to a report sent to the UN Security Council last Thursday.

"This unconscionable attack marks the fourth time that the JIM has confirmed that the Assad regime used chemical weapons, underscoring the brutal and horrifying barbarism of Bashar al Assad and making the protection provided by Russia even more egregious," the White House said.

Washington implored the international body to renew the probe.

"The United States implores the UN Security Council to renew the mandate of the JIM so that we may continue to identify the perpetrators of these horrific attacks and send a clear message that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated," the White House statement added.

JIM was unanimously created by the 15-member UN Security Council in 2015 and renewed in 2016 for another year. Its mandate is due to expire in mid-November.

In their 14th report since 2011, UN investigators said they had in all documented 33 chemical weapons attacks to date.

Twenty-seven were by the Assad regime, including seven between March 1 to July 7. Perpetrators had not been identified yet in six attacks, they said.

The Assad regime has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons. It said its strikes in Khan Shaykhun hit a weapons depot belonging to rebel forces, a claim “excluded” by UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria chairman Paulo Pinheiro.

That attack led US President Donald Trump to launch the first US air strikes on a Syrian air base.

Source: Reuters