Russian envoy to meet Libya rebel leaders
The special envoy of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday was to travel to the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi to meet the leaders of the opposition fighting against Moamer Kadhafi.
Mikhail Margelov, Medvedev's envoy for Africa, told the RIA Novosti news agency he would meet Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council that controls eastern Libya around Benghazi.
He is also to meet the rebels' military affairs chief Omar el-Hariri and the the prime minister of the National Transitional Council Mahmoud Jibril, he said.
Medvedev announced at the G8 summit last month that he would be sending the envoy to Libya, as Moscow seeks to present itself as a potential mediator and expresses growing alarm over the continued conflict.
It was not clear if Margelov would travel on to Kadhafi's stronghold of Tripoli after meeting the rebel leaders or when the talks with the Benghazi rebels would take place.
Although Medvedev's order for Russia to abstain in a crucial UN Security Council vote essentially allowed the NATO-led military action against Kadhafi targets to go ahead, Moscow has become increasingly angry over the air strikes.
"The Russian president strongly supports the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Libya," Margelov said.
"The Arab world, Africa, and the whole international community needs a united democratic Libya."
In a sign of Russia's suspicion of Western interference in the conflict, Margelov said "Libyans are capable of solving their own problems themselves."
"A drawing out of the armed conflict will worsen the humanitarian situation not only in Libya but also in neighbouring states that are taking on Libyan refugees."
"This all threatens a dangerous destabilisation of the situation in the region," he said.
Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Saturday that the operation in Libya was "sliding towards" a land campaign, after NATO acknowledged that it had now deployed British and French attack helicopters.
© 2011 AFP