Russia and Syria clashed with Britain and France at the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday (March 20th) over the scope of an investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, accusing Western powers of trying to torpedo a potential U.N. probe.

Syria asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday to investigate an alleged chemical weapons attack by "terrorist groups" near the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday, Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said. Russia supports that request.

Britain and France cited Syrian opposition claims that there were two chemical weapons attacks, one in Damascus and another in Aleppo, on Tuesday and demanded that both be investigated. Russia's U.N. envoy disagreed strongly with the idea of focusing an urgently needed U.N. investigation on multiple incidents.

The dispute highlighted the chasm between Russia's position toward the Syrian government, its ally, and that of the Western powers who support the opposition trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad. The deadlock on the 15-nation council has left it powerless to act on Syria's two-year-old civil war.

Syria's government and rebels accused each other of launching a deadly chemical attack, but U.S. and European officials say there is no evidence to suggest there was such an attack. If confirmed, it would be the first use of such weapons in the conflict.

British deputy ambassador Philip Parham and French ambassador Gerard Araud said their position, and that of the majority of council members, was that the U.N. must investigate both alleged chemical weapon attacks.

U.S. President Barack Obama has warned that any use of chemical weapons would be a "red line" that would trigger consequences, without spelling out what those would be. Obama repeated that warning on Wednesday during a visit to Israel.

Presented by Adam Justice