Russia backs lifting Libya no-fly zone

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Russia said Thursday it backed lifting the NATO-imposed no-fly zone over Libya in a new resolution on the conflict being drafted by Britain.

"Considering the changed situation in Libya, Russia has proposed to include in the draft and clauses the lifting of the no-fly zone regime," foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters in remarks broadcast on state television.

The resolution drafted by Britain sets up a UN mission to help Libya's transitional council set up an administration and organise elections. It was sent to members of the council on Tuesday.

The draft resolution proposes maintaining provisions on the protection of civilians so that NATO can keep up air strikes if needed, diplomats said. It also calls for gradual lifting of sanctions.

Moscow was a discordant voice in the UN Security Council throughout the Libyan crisis despite letting the Western intervention go ahead by abstaining from the first resolution on a no-fly zone.

It then repeatedly accused Western countries of siding with the rebels and was disgruntled with the magnitude of the campaign without getting involved.

"We proceed from the fact that the UN mission's main goal should be the support of a transitional process in Libya and helping the national effort to restore security and order," prepare for elections and rebuild the economy, Lukashevich said.

Russia has been a late party to recognise Libyan rebels as the country's legitimate rulers, taking until September 1 to formally do so.

However it has tried to keep its influence in the country after the ouster of its longterm ally Moamer Kadhafi and recently invited the transitional government to Moscow for energy talks.

Having billions of dollars at stake in Libya after starting energy and infrastructural projects there under the Kadhafi regime, Russia fears being sidelined during Libya's restoration by countries that supported the rebels.

Kadhafi has been at large over the past weeks and leaders of France and Britain pledged to help the new government find him.

The Kremlin's envoy to Africa Mikhail Margelov on Thursday dispelled rumors that Kadhafi may be in Niger after meeting with President Mahamadou Issoufou on Wednesday.

"Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou assured me that Kadhafi is not on his country's territory," he told Interfax.

Kadhafi's son Saadi Kadhafi has been in Niger since early September having crossed the border with about 30 other Kadhafi supporters.

© 2011 AFP

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