Moscow said an international task force is poised to re-enter Syria on Wednesday to look further at allegations of chemical-weapons use in the country’s civil war, Reuters reported.
Russia last week criticized the initial U.N. findings that nerve gas was used in an Aug. 21 attack, which have widely been seen to implicate its Damascus ally in that release over a Damascus suburb.
Moscow, though, is “pleased” that the investigators now are expected to probe “other episodes” of possible chemical-weapon use, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday. Russia has joined Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government in blaming such strikes on rebel forces.
States parties to an international chemical-arms ban on Tuesday were consulting on a “draft decision” for dismantling Syria’s chemical arsenal, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons stated. The 41-nation OPCW Executive Council was due on Tuesday to vote on a U.S.-Russian blueprint for monitoring and destroying the stockpile, Reuters reported.
Envoys said the U.N. Security Council could act as soon as Thursday to pass a measure backing the OPCW text. Russia, though, has continued opposing calls by Western governments for the Security Council to endorse possible punitive action for any noncompliance by Damascus.
“There can be no talk of any automatic application of sanctions, let alone the use of force,” Reuters quoted Ryabkov as saying on Tuesday.
Specialists said eliminating the weapons by next June — as the U.S.-Russian disarmament plan demands — would be a challenge for the international community, the New York Times reported on Monday.
“If you want to act quickly, the technical decisions have to be made now, while the diplomats are working,” said Lenny Siegel, head of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight. “This is difficult stuff and it’s costly but the technologies exist — though most people don’t know that.”
Meanwhile, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on Monday rejected a Syrian rebel assertion that it had taken custody of chemical arms from Syria, the Daily Star reported.
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"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.