CHEMICAL WEAPONS: UN To Vote On Syria Resolution

Assad supporters rally in Turkey

(CNN) — The U.N. Security Council could vote as early as Friday on a draft resolution regarding Syria’s chemical weapons program.

The resolution would impose “legally binding obligations” on the government to eliminate its program, said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

“This resolution will require the destruction of a category of weapons that the Syrian government has used ruthlessly and repeatedly against its own people. And this resolution will make clear that there are going to be consequences for noncompliance,” she said.

Power described the move as significant, as it represents the first time since the start of the conflict that the Security Council has imposed binding obligations on Syria.

She said council members are hoping for a vote as early as Friday night, following a vote in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons executive council.

“In the wake of that vote, and we hope in the immediate wake of that vote, we would have Security Council adoption of this text, which we are optimistic is going to be received very warmly. We’re optimistic for an overwhelming vote,” Power said.

The United States and other Western nations blame the Syrian government for an August 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus that U.S. officials estimate killed 1,400 people.

Russia and Syria say they think rebels used the weapons.

“This is a breakthrough arrived at through hard-fought diplomacy,” a senior State Department official said about the resolution.

“The Russians have agreed to support a strong, binding and enforceable resolution that unites the pressure and focus of the international community on the Syrian regime to ensure the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons,” the official said.

The deal could still fall apart.

According to a Western diplomat, the draft resolution imposes a set of binding legal obligations on Syria that includes, in the event of noncompliance, Security Council ability to seek sanctions under a separate Security Council resolution.

The language in the draft text authorizes the director general of the OPCW and the U.N. Secretary General to report noncompliance to the Security Council as it happens, after which the Security Council can decide to impose measures, the Western diplomat said.

The resolution would not authorize automatic use of force if Syria is said to be in violation, as was previously sought by the United States, said the source.