The U.N. Security Council unanimously passes a resolution laying the groundwork for an inquiry that would assign blame for chemical weapons attacks in Syria's civil war. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: The U.N. Security Council on Friday (August 7) unanimously passed a U.S.-drafted resolution asking U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and the head of the global anti-chemical weapons watchdog to prepare a plan to set up an inquiry to identify those behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria's civil war. Attributing responsibility for poison gas attacks in Syria's four-year conflict could pave the way for action by the 15-member Security Council. The body has already threatened consequences for such attacks, which could include sanctions. A separate U.N. investigation had previously determined that sarin gas has been used repeatedly in Syria to deadly effect, but that inquiry was also barred from assigning blame. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said it was vital that those responsible for chemical attacks be held accountable. "Pointing the finger matters," Power told the council after the vote. "That determination ties the perpetrator to the action. And that link is essential to eventual accountability." Power added, "We all know that we currently lack an effective mechanism for holding criminally accountable those responsible. But when the day comes that we have one, and that day will come, the evidence gathered by the Joint Investigative Mechanism will stand as a record not just of what has been done but if who has done it." The adoption of the resolution came after the United States struck a deal with Russia, a strong backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on a formal request to the United Nations to assemble a team of investigators to lay blame for toxic gas attacks in Syria. Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 in a bid to avoid U.S. military strikes threatened over a sarin gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians. The OPCW has since found chlorine has been "systematically and repeatedly" used as a weapon, though it is not mandated to lay blame. Both the Syrian government and opposition forces have denied using chemical weapons. Speaking to the council, Syria's Ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Ja'afari blamed the opposition for using chemical weapons. "The Syrian government and army have never used chemical weapons and they will never use chemical weapons. Syrian civilians were targeted with the use of toxic chemicals and chemical weapons, including chlorine gas, by armed terrorist groups lead by Daesh (Islamic State) and the al Nusra Front." Western powers say the Syrian government has been responsible for chemical attacks. The Syrian government and Russia have accused rebel forces of using poison gas.