Putin says Libya airstrikes contribute to civilian suffering

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Western airstrikes against Libya contribute to civilian suffering in the North African country and expressed concern.

"There is a civil war going on, there was a proposal for a no-fly zone to prevent (Libyan leader Moamer) Kadhafi from striking his opponents. The goal is fair but what do we see today: strikes on the territory of the entire country," Putin said at a press conference in Serbia.

"How can one use measures that contribute to civilians' suffering when the goal is to protect the civil population? How could that not cause concern?" he asked, when questioned about Russia's position.

On a visit to Moscow Wednesday dominated by the conflict in Libya, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates rejected Russia's criticism of the strikes against Kadhafi's regime.

Russia, taking a tougher stance after choosing not to block a UN resolution last week approving military action, urged an immediate ceasefire.

In Serbia, where Putin mainly discussed Russia's South Stream gas pipeline project which will run through the Balkans country, the Russian prime minister again criticised the ease with which the decision to bomb Libya was made.

"I am concerned with the easy way in which the decision to use force was taken in regard to international issues in recent years," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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