June 26 (UPI) — Western powers appear to have enough votes to overcome a Russian objection and give a chemical weapons watchdog power to identify those responsible for using such weapons.
Leading a coalition of other nations, British officials are trying to expand the powers of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, beyond just investigating attacks.
Tuesday, the British delegation to a special conference called for a vote within 24 hours on the proposed changes. Ninety-eight of 107 voting countries back the proposal — and nine, led by Russia, oppose.
Moscow has resisted the move and said the changes would politicize the OPCW.
The motion, which is expected to pass Wednesday, requires a two-thirds majority.
The new powers would likely target Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who’s repeatedly denied using chemical weapons, but is often accused in chemical attacks.
Tuesday, Russian officials told the Kremlin-run TASS news agency they’re prepared to counter Britain’s initiative on expanding OPCW powers.
“Of course, we are ready to counter Britain’s initiative. I believe there will be a serious discussion of the solution proposed by the U.K. and expect other draft decisions to be submitted,” Russian Trade Minister Georgy Kalamanov said.
British officials say Russia’s counterproposal would give Moscow the right to veto OPCW conclusions in investigations and undermine the independence of the watchdog’s director general.