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Russia fails to curb new powers of chemical weapons watchdog

Members of the global chemical weapons watchdog on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a Russian-led push to undercut new powers that allow the agency to point the finger of blame for the use of banned toxic munitions in Syria.

The full membership of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons voted 99 to 27 in favor of passing an increased budget for 2019, which will partly fund the Western-backed new powers, and rejected proposals by Russia and Iran aimed at blocking it.

The votes came at a time of heightened tension between Russia, whose forces support Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the West over the systematic use of chemical weapons in the Syrian war.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said giving the OPCW additional powers overstepped the boundaries of its founding treaty, the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.

The new powers “of a prosecutor are a gross violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, decisions of the UN Security Council and contrary to the position of the majority of states parties to the convention,” he was quoted by Sputnik News as saying.

Dutch authorities said they disrupted an attempted hack of The Hague-based OPCW in April, when the watchdog was looking into both the attack on Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Britain and chemical strikes in Syria which the West blames on Assad.

Scores of attacks with sarin gas and chlorine have been carried out in the Syrian conflict by regime forces and opposition groups, according to a joint UN-OPCW investigation.

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