Russia says Kadhafi death poses 'number of questions'

21st October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Friday said a convoy carrying Moamer Kadhafi posed no danger to civilians when attacked by NATO jets and questioned other circumstances of the Libyan strongman's violent death.

Foreign Minister Lavrov added sternly that Western leaders were premature in celebrating the veteran dictator's death because its circumstances breached basic international law.

"The way his death happened poses an entire number of questions," Lavrov said in a live radio interview. "NATO's actions are also of interest to us from the perspective of international law."

Lavrov said he heard French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet say that the NATO jet firing the missile that took out Kadhafi's vehicle "intended to stop and not destroy" the convoy.

He then accused the Brussels-based military bloc of exceeding UN mandates that permitted its forces to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya and protect civilians.

"There is no link between a no-fly zone and ground targets, including this convoy," Lavrov said. "Even more so since civilian life was not in danger because it (the convoy) was not attacking anyone."

Lavrov also hinted strongly that Russia believed Kadhafi was killed by forces loyal to the National Transitional Council and had not died from his wounds as some NTC representatives claimed.

"The (Geneva) conventions clearly state that as soon as a participant in an armed conflict is taken prisoner, he is subject to special procedures," he said.

"The images we saw on television show that he was taken prisoner while wounded, and then later, once already a prisoner, his life was taken away."

Russia had firmly opposed the launch of the Libya offensive and Lavrov sought to point out on Friday that Moscow was only following international agreements and not trying to provoke a confrontation with the West.

"We are not trying to act like a bull in a china shop" in the North Africa region, Lavrov said.

NATO said Friday it was unaware Kadhafi was travelling in the convoy and said it had carried out the strike "solely to reduce the threat towards the civilian population, as required to do under our UN mandate".

It added that "as a matter of policy, NATO does not target individuals".

Russia's position in Libya -- a close trading partner that purchased weapons from Moscow and extended its firms lucrative energy railway construction contracts -- has been shaken by the rise of the new regime.

But officials in Moscow have dodged all questions about the wisdom of supporting Kadhafi in the early stages of the conflict and instead used various arguments to support their claims that the war was illegal.

Russia believes the no-fly zone and accompanying mandate to protect civilians were used by NATO to support one side in a civil war -- action that the United Nations never authorised.

Lavrov said the West was setting a dangerous precedent in Libya and once again repeated Russia's refusal to support a strongly-worded resolution against Syria and President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"If the logic of 'you are a bad guy, we do not talk to you, you have to go and that is that' becomes the basic position of the international community, it will only provoke violence and unrest," Lavrov said.

© 2011 AFP

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