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Outrage as Syria to head UN chemical arms panel

Horror: A Syrian
child is treated
after the
chemical attack PIC: GETTY

THE United Nations was last night accused of placing a ‘rapist in charge of a women’s shelter’ as it emerged Syria is to be handed the chairmanship of its body for tackling chemical weapons.

It came as Donald Trump hinted at a fresh US missile strike on Syria – while Russia again threatened to veto a UN investigation into Saturday’s alleged chemical attack near Damascus.

Critics hit out at the UN for allowing Syria to chair its Conference on Disarmament when it stands accused of repeatedly using chemical weapons in its seven-year civil war.

‘Having the regime of Bashar al-Assad preside over global chemical and nuclear weapons disarmament will be like putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter,’ said Hillel Neuer of the United Nations Watch monitoring group.

‘Syria holding the president’s gavel is liable to seriously undermine the UN’s credibility, and will send absolutely the worst message.’

Mockery: Vasily Nebenzya, Russian ambassador to the UN, last night

Former British Army colonel Richard Kemp said the UN had become a ‘sick joke’, adding: ‘Any decent nation should boycott and defund this body.’

Theresa May warned both Syria and Russia they will be held to account if they are responsible for the latest ‘truly barbaric’ attack. She said she had been ‘horrified’ by videos showing the apparent aftermath of the attack on the suburb of Douma which left at least 70 dead. ‘If confirmed it provides further evidence of the Assad regime’s appalling cruelty against its own people,’ the prime minister said.

‘Russia’s vetoes at the UN have enabled the regime to breach global rules and removed mechanisms which have enabled us to investigate chemical weapons attacks in Syria.’

Video footage from the scene showed bodies foaming at the mouth and children gasping for breath as they were treated in hospital – but Russia suggested it had all been faked as a pretext for Western intervention.

‘Our military experts and the Syrian Red Crescent have not found any trace of chlorine or any other chemical substances against civilians,’ said foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

Attack: Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, last night called president Assad ‘a monster’ PIC: AP

And last night Vasily Nebenzya, Russian ambassador to the UN, mocked the West, not only denying Russian backing for the alleged chemical attack but accusing Britain and its allies of unleashing ‘chaos’. He told an emergency UN security council meeting: ‘The leadership of the US, the UK and France, without any justification and without considering the consequences, have engaged in a confrontational policy. ‘Whatever you touch, chaos is left behind,’ he added.

But the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley hit back, branding president Assad ‘a monster’ and accusing Russia of having blood on its hands.

She spoke of ‘women and children hiding in basements from a renewed assault by Bashar al-Assad – families that were hiding underground to escape Assad’s conventional bombs and artillery’. Then she added: ‘But the basements that Syrian families thought would shelter them became their tombs. The monster responsible for these attacks has no conscience.’

Ms Haley condemned ‘the Russian regime whose hands are all covered by the blood of Syrian children.’

Meanwhile, Israel has not commented on claims it was responsible for a missile attack on a Syrian military airport that killed 14 yesterday.