The UN Security Council has given an international inquiry five more weeks to complete its report on who is to blame for toxic gas attacks in Syria.
It comes as UN chief Ban Ki-moon, France, Britain and others push for those responsible to be punished.
The inquiry was due to submit its report this week, but Ban told the 15-member council in a letter, seen by Reuters on Thursday, that the inquiry needed extra time and wanted to delay its deadline until October 21. The council has extended its mandate until October 31.
In its most recent report to the Security Council last month, the joint United Nations and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inquiry said that Syrian government troops were responsible for two toxic gas attacks and Islamic State militants used sulphur mustard gas.
France, Britain and other council members want the body to act after receiving the next report, the inquiry’s fourth.
“There have been two incidents documented by the UN/OPCW of the dropping of chlorine gas. How can we sit by and let that happen? Burning, blistering, barbaric chlorine gas being dropped on innocent people,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told a Security Council meeting on Syria on Wednesday.
As the inquiry works to complete its report, it has identified two Syrian Air Force helicopter squadrons and two other military units it holds responsible for chlorine gas attacks, a Western diplomat told Reuters.