Russia on Wednesday denounced UN investigators' findings on a poison gas attack in Syria as preconceived and tainted by politics on Wednesday, stepping up its criticism of a report Western nations said proved President Bashar al-Assad's forces were responsible.
Russia, which has veto power in the Security Council, could cite such doubts about proof of culpability in opposing future efforts by the United States, Britain and France to pressure Syria on a deal to abandon chemical weapons.
"We are disappointed, to put it mildly, about the approach taken by the UN secretariat and the UN inspectors, who prepared the report selectively and incompletely," deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the state-run Russian news agency RIA in Damascus.
"Without receiving a full picture of what is happening here, it is impossible to call the nature of the conclusions reached by the U.N. experts ... anything but politicized, preconceived and one-sided," Ryabkov said after talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.
Syria hands Russia new gas attack 'evidence'
Meanwhile, Ryabkov said Syrian authorities had given him alleged evidence of chemical weapons use by Syrian government's opponents.
"The corresponding materials were handed to the Russian side. We were told that they were evidence that the rebels are implicated in the chemical attack," Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
He said that Russia would "examine the Syrian materials implicating the rebels with the utmost seriousness".
The Syrian ambassador to Moscow, Riyad Haddad, told the Interfax news agency that Ryabkov was expected to have a meeting on Wednesday with President Bashar al-Assad.
Ryabkov said he assured the Syrian side that there was "no basis" for a UN Security Council resolution on the chemical weapons agreement to invoke Chapter VII of the UN Charter that allowed the use of force and tough sanctions.
He said this could only be considered if the UN Security Council was able to confirm violations of the convention on chemical weapons. "This is a hypothetical situation."
"It is especially important that some kind of political interests do not again appear, especially in New York (at the UN Security Council)," he added.
The recent report by the UN issued on Monday confirmed the nerve agent sarin was used in the August 21 attack but did not assign blame. Britain, France and the United States said it confirmed Syria's government, not rebels as Russia has suggested, was behind it.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday the investigation was incomplete without examination of evidence from other sources and that suspicions of chemical use after August 21 should also be investigated.
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