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The Latest: Chemical weapons body calls on countries to join

May 18, 2018 - 12:01 PM

BEIRUT - The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

9:55 p.m.

Top diplomats from 32 countries have called on other states to join a new body aimed at better identifying and punishing those who use chemical weapons.

The International Partnership against Impunity for the use of Chemical Weapons condemns "the repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Syrian armed forces and by Daesh," in a statement Friday.

The Paris meeting notably discussed ways to make "all necessary means available for the development of effective, impartial and independent attribution arrangements to identify those responsible for chemical attacks."

The diplomats call on Russia to "reconsider its position" and accept a new international mechanism on the issue.

France, the U.S. and Britain bombed Syrian government sites last month in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack.


7:20 p.m.

A Kremlin official says President Vladimir Putin's statement about the need for the foreign troops' pullout from Syria refers to Iran and Hezbollah among others.

Putin said at Thursday's meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to pull out their troops from Syria.

Alexander Lavrentyev, Putin's envoy for Syria, said Friday that Putin's statement was aimed at the U.S. and Turkey along with Iran and Hezbollah.

Lavrentyev's statement marked a rare moment when Moscow spoke about the need for Iran to eventually pull its forces out of Syria.

Russia and Iran have pooled efforts to back Assad. Moscow has argued its troops have deployed to Syria on its government's invitation, while the military presence of the U.S. and others has been illegal.


6 p.m.

A Syria war monitor says 11 people have been killed and dozens wounded and missing in blasts from explosions at a weapons warehouse inside an air base in Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the deaths included Syrian government troops and allied militiamen.

State TV also reported the explosions at Hama air base in central Syria, but did not give a reason or mention casualties.

The Observatory reported at least five successive explosions and said it was not clear whether they were a result of attacks that targeted the air base, or a result of a technical error or overheating.

The Hama air base is used by government warplanes that carry out airstrikes on central and northern Syria.

The strikes came amid soaring tensions between regional archenemies Israel and Iran.


5:10 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is urging Europe to help rebuild Syria to encourage the return of refugees to their homes.

Speaking after Friday's talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said that European humanitarian assistance to Syria and help in rebuilding the country after the devastating civil war is crucial in creating conditions for the refugees' return.

He said that providing aid for Syria must be "depoliticized," a statement addressing the Western reluctance to provide assistance to Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.

Merkel urged Putin to use his clout with Assad to make him reverse a law that would strip Syrians of their assets if they fail to claim them right away.

Putin met with Assad in Sochi on Thursday, encouraging him to take steps toward a political settlement.


2:45 p.m.

Syrian state media and an opposition monitoring group are reporting explosions near an air base in the central province of Hama.

State TV and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights did not give a reason for the explosions.

The Observatory said the air base is where government warplanes take off to carry out airstrikes on central and northern Syria. It said the explosion occurred inside the base adding that it was not clear if the explosion was result of a blast inside an arms depot.

In late April, a missile attack on government outposts in northern Syria killed more than a dozen pro-government fighters, many of them Iranians.

The strikes came amid soaring tensions between regional archenemies Israel and Iran.


11:35 a.m.

France's government is imposing new sanctions on people and companies suspected of helping Syria's chemical weapons program.

The Finance Ministry and Foreign Ministry announced Friday a freeze on assets of three individuals and nine companies involved in research or purchasing for the Syrian Scientific Research Center. The Syrian lab is accused of producing chemical weapons for President Bashar Assad's government.

France says companies from multiple countries have been furnishing materials for the manufacture of chemical weapons, including sarin gas.

France is hosting leading diplomats Friday for a meeting of a new body aimed at better identifying and punishing those who use chemical weapons.

The international chemical weapons watchdog said this week that chlorine was likely used in the rebel-held northern Syrian town of Saraqeb in February, the latest report of poison gas used in Syria's civil war.

News from © The Associated Press, 2018
The Associated Press

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