By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia cast its 10th veto on Thursday of United Nations Security Council action on Syria since the war began in 2011, blocking a U.S.-drafted resolution to renew an international inquiry into who is to blame for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
The mandate for the joint inquiry by the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which found the Syrian government used the banned nerve agent sarin in an April 4 attack, expires at midnight Thursday.
A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China to be adopted. The U.S. draft received 12 votes in favor and abstentions by China and Egypt.
Syrian ally Russia withdrew its own rival draft resolution to renew the inquiry, formally known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), shortly before the council vote on the U.S. draft. Diplomats said the Russian draft text had little support among the 15-member council.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told reporters before the vote that she had been unable to speak to her Russian counterpart Vassily Nebenzia this week about the inquiry's renewal. She said the United States had amended its draft several times in a bid to win Russian support for measure.
"For some reason the phones at the Russian mission aren't working. We have tried to get a call with them and they've been too busy to talk to us this week and when I have tried to call Vassily for some reason he's not available," Haley said.
Ahead of the council vote, U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday urged the U.N. Security Council to renew the inquiry, saying it was needed to prevent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons.
"Need all on the U.N. Security Council to vote to renew the Joint Investigative Mechanism for Syria to ensure that Assad Regime does not commit mass murder with chemical weapons ever again," Trump said in a note on Twitter.
While Russia agreed to the 2015 creation of the JIM, it has consistently questioned its findings, which also concluded that the Syrian government used chlorine as a weapon several times.
Russia has now vetoed 10 resolutions on Syria since the conflict started in 2011, including blocking an initial U.S. bid on Oct. 24 to renew the JIM, saying it wanted to wait for the release two days later of the inquiry's report that blamed a sarin gas attack on the Syrian government.
Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by James Dalgleish)