Russia, India lead condemnation of Libya strikes

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Russia and India hit out Monday at the Western-led air campaign in Libya, leading a chorus of condemnation as the United Nations chief pleaded for international unity on the action against Moamer Kadhafi.

In one of his most virulent diatribes against the West in years, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin slammed the UN resolution allowing military action against Kadhafi's forces as a "medieval call to crusade".

India urged an immediate halt to the strikes spearheaded by French fighter jets Saturday, while Germany said it had "good reasons" for abstaining from Thursday's UN Security Council vote on the resolution allowing the action.

The three countries as well as Brazil and China abstained from the vote, which was backed by 10 nations, that allowed use of "all necessary measures" to shield Libyan civilians from a brutal crackdown by Kadhafi forces on a popular revolt.

"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.

Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council, did not use their veto vote to block the action.

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

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."

"I think the need of the hour is cessation of armed conflict," Krishna told reporters.

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

"We always said we wouldn't send soldiers," he said. "This does not mean we are neutral, this does not mean that we have any sympathy with the dictator Kadhafi."

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.

But 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 of 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.

© 2011 AFP

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