Medvedev in open clash with Putin over Libya

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President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday slammed Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's comments on military action against Libya as "unacceptable", in the most public clash yet between Russia's ruling tandem.

Putin earlier Monday had slammed the UN resolution allowing military action on Libya as resembling a "medieval call to crusade", in one of his most virulent diatribes against the West in years.

"Under no circumstances is it acceptable to use expressions which essentially lead to a clash of civilizations. Such as 'crusade' and so on," Russian news agencies quoted Medvedev as saying.

"It is unacceptable. Otherwise, everything may end up much worse compared to what's going on now. Everyone should remember that," Medvedev said at his residence outside Moscow.

Medvedev also gave his qualified backing to the UN Security Council resolution on Libya, in remarks that are likely to further endear him to the West in the run-up to presidential polls in 2012.

Russia refrained from using its veto on the UN resolution and instead abstained, a position that allowed the resolution to be passed.

"I do not believe this resolution to be wrong. I believe that this resolution also reflects on the whole our understanding of the events happening in Libya," Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.

"But not in everything. That's why we did not use our veto right, it was a qualified refusal to veto, with rather clear consequences."

"We have done it consciously, those were my instructions to the foreign ministry and they have been implemented."

The comments directly contradicted Putin, who had described the entire resolution as "flawed".

Medvedev took over the Kremlin in 2008 after Putin served two four-year terms as president. Putin immediately became a powerful prime minister and until now the two men have generally steered clear of clashes in public.

Observers have long speculated that the US favours Medvedev over Putin. Some reports even suggested that US Vice President Joe Biden wanted to warn Putin against considering a return to the Kremlin in 2012 polls, on his visit to Russia this month.

© 2011 AFP

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