Russia says Libya regime change imminent

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Russia said Monday it expected the Libyan rebels to shortly take power after seizing most of the capital Tripoli and insisted that future political dialogue be held without foreign interference.

The Russian foreign ministry said the Tripoli offensive appeared to spell "an imminent" change of regime in Libya that should be followed by dialogue in which nations "refrain from interfering in Libya's internal affairs".

"The dramatic turn of events in the Libyan conflict appears to testify to an imminent shift of power in this country to the rebel forces," the ministry said in a statement.

"We expect this to spell the end to a drawn-out period of inter-Libyan bloodshed that brought so much trouble and suffering to the country's entire population and caused serious damage to its national economy," it said.

The comments were Russia's first since the rebels launched a final push for victory in Tripoli that left them in control of most of President Moamer Kadhafi's stronghold.

Russia was one of the harshest international critics of the West's role in providing military support for the rebels and remains the only major power to still hold an embassy open in Tripoli.

Moscow has also refused to recognise the rebels' National Transitional Council as a formal Libyan authority and continues to view the NTC as only a negotiating partner.

The Russian statement issued Monday came no closer to recognising the NTC. But it reaffirmed earlier calls for foreign powers to respect the north African country's sovereignty and let it decide its own future.

Russia called on others to "refrain from interfering in Libya's internal affairs and provide practical help in protecting civilians and ... restoring legitimate power in the country".

© 2011 AFP

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