Bombing raids in Libya to 'recede' within days: US
Western bombing raids against Libya's regime likely will be scaled in a matter of days after air defence sites are knocked out, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday after talks in Moscow.
Destroying radar and missiles under Moamer Kadhafi's control would pave the way for a no-fly zone that could be patrolled by combat aircraft, with the United States then assuming a supporting role, Gates told reporters travelling with him during a visit to Russia.
"I think as we are successful at suppressing the air defences the level of kinetic activity should decline," Gates said.
He made similar remarks earlier after meeting Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serduykov, saying he told his counterpart that "significant military fighting that has been going on should recede in the next few days."
His comments came a day after US President Barack Obama said the American military would be reducing its role in the operation shortly.
But in a joint appearance by the the US and Russian defence chiefs, Serdyukov charged that the coalition bombing raids had killed civilians and destroyed civilian buildings.
Serdyukov said he told Gates of "our opposition" to civilian casualties and urged an immediate ceasefire.
Gates, however, said international forces were trying to minimize civilian deaths and that most targets in the air strikes were surface-to-air missile sites located well away from cities and towns.
He said that nearly all civilian casualties in the fighting had been caused by Kadhafi's regime and questioned Moscow's criticism.
The Pentagon chief arrived in Moscow amid furious comments from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who compared the UN resolution that allowed air strikes on Libya to a medieval call to a crusade.
The comments were later watered down by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who suggested that Moscow could help mediate an end to the conflict while confirming his disapproval of Kadhafi's actions.
© 2011 AFP