Russian PM, India condemn Libya strikes

21st March 2011, Comments 0 comments

India and Russia's prime minister hit out Monday at the Western-led air strikes in Libya as the United Nations chief pleaded for international unity on the action against Moamer Kadhafi.

India urged an immediate halt to the strikes spearheaded by French fighter jets Saturday, as Germany said it had "good reasons" for abstaining from Thursday's UN vote on the action and African nations voiced criticism.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin slammed the UN resolution as a "medieval call to crusade", but was later criticised by President Dmitry Medvedev who gave the action on Kadhafi's forces qualified support.

"The resolution by the Security Council, of course, is defective and flawed," Putin was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

"To me, it resembles some sort of medieval call to crusade when someone would appeal to someone to go to a certain place and free someone else," he charged.

Medvedev, in a hastily convened press conference, said using words such as "crusade" in reference to a Muslim country was unacceptable.

"Otherwise, everything may end up much worse compared to what's going on now. Everyone should remember that," Medvedev said.

Russia refrained from using its veto on the UN Security Council resolution and instead abstained because it did not reflect its entire position on what is happening in Libya, he said.

Brazil, China, Germany and China also abstained from the vote, which was backed by 10 nations and allowed use of "all necessary measures" to shield Libyan civilians from a crackdown by Kadhafi forces on a popular revolt.

The international operation has been joined by a host of nations including Britain, France, the United States, Greece, Italy, Spain and notably Qatar.

But India's Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said the strikes on Libya would lead to more harm to "innocent civilians, foreign nationals and diplomatic missions."

"India calls upon all parties to abjure violence and the use of threat and force to resolve the differences. I think the need of the hour is cessation of armed conflict," he told reporters.

China also expressed regret on Sunday, saying in a foreign ministry statement that it opposed the use of force in international relations.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Monday Arab League criticism of alliance action at the weekend showed that Germany had "good reasons" to fear military intervention.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel said despite Germany's abstention, Berlin wanted the military mission to be successful in stopping Kadhafi's forces.

The Arab League's call for the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone was vital to mustering votes to pass the resolution, but on Sunday its secretary general Amr Mussa suggested the air strikes went beyond the resolution.

But he reaffirmed his commitment to the UN-mandated action after talks Monday with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who called for unity.

"It is important that the international community speak with one voice to implement the second council resolution," the UN chief said, referring to Resolution 1973 passed Thursday.

Turkey Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was critical of the formation of the coalition leading the action and stressed the objective should be "not to launch a large-scale war".

Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei charged the Western intervention in Libya was aimed at "getting their hands on its oil", as claimed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Sunday.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov also said Monday the "adventure" was motivated by "petrol and who will exploit Libya's oil fields".

South Africa, among the countries that backed the UN resolution behind Britain, France and the United States, was also wary.

"Operations aimed at enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians should be limited to just that," President Jacob Zuma said, adding South Africa does not support "the regime change doctrine".

Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba labelled the strikes an "interference in internal affairs of Africa", backing the 53-nation African Union stance against "any kind of foreign military intervention" in Libya.

African historian and former Mali First Lady Adame Ba Konare called it a "macabre carnival" and called on Africans to defend their "bruised and ridiculed" continent.

© 2011 AFP

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