UN weighs measure to rid Syria of chemical weapons

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Sweden on Thursday circulated a draft UN resolution on sending a UN mission to Syria to rid the country of chemical weapons "once and for all", according to the text obtained by AFP.

The proposal was presented as the Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss the threat of military action against Syria in response to an alleged chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma.

Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog said he hopes the council can take action on his proposal "as quickly as possible" saying "the clock is ticking" - an apparent reference to imminent strikes on Syria.

The draft resolution expresses support for a fact-finding mission by the OPCW and requests that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres separately dispatch a "high-level disarmament mission" with the task of addressing "all outstanding issues on the use of chemical weapons once and for all."

Under a 2013 US-Russia deal that averted US-led strikes, Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons stockpile and sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) which bans the use of the toxic gases in warfare.

The United States, Britain and France accuse Syria of violating those commitments by carrying out chemical attacks and failing to fully disclose its stockpile.

The Swedish-drafted text calls for the establishment of an investigative panel to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in Syria after Russia this week vetoed a US proposal to set up such a mechanism.

Under the Swedish text, Guterres would present a proposal on the creation of the panel within 10 days.

After the council failed this week during three votes to agree on a response to the alleged chemical attack in Douma, Guterres on Wednesday stressed "the need to avoid the situation spiraling out of control" in Syria.

The UN chief spoke by phone with the ambassadors from the five permanent council members -- Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States -- to express his "deep concern" about the deadlock at the council over Syria.

Two groups of experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will arrive in Syria on Thursday and Friday, Syria's Ambassador Bashar Jaafari said.

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