Russia, Nato clash over Libya campaign
Russia and Nato yesterday failed to narrow their differences over the Western air campaign in Libya, as alliance warplanes stepped up their bombing of regime targets.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Nato of interpreting a UN resolution in any way it wished, after talks with Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen that showed up differences rather than any agreement on a solution.
The previously scheduled Nato-Russia Council meeting in the Black Sea city of Sochi was joined at the last minute by South African President Jacob Zuma but his presence did not appear to help bring the sides any closer.
“So far, there is no common understanding over how the resolution is being implemented,” Mr Lavrov said, referring to the UN Security Council resolution that paved the way for the air campaign.
Mr Lavrov and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier held talks with Mr Rasmussen in a bid to overcome their differences over the Libyan crisis. They were also joined by Mr Zuma who earlier had a bilateral meeting with Mr Medvedev.
Russia abstained in the resolution vote at the Security Council but has since expressed growing anger over the duration and intensity of the Nato-led air strikes against targets of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan regime. Russia has advocated the African Union taking a leading role in the negotiations and Mr Medvedev’s personal envoy Mikhail Margelov held talks in Libya with both representatives of the rebels and Col Gaddafi’s regime last month. But the rebels have rejected the settlement terms proposed by the AU and Russia has also failed to convince Col Gaddafi to leave.
“There is absolutely no current or future possibility for Gaddafi to remain in Libya,” said National Transitional Council Mustafa Mohammed Abdel Jalil.
“There is no escape clause for Gaddafi – he must be removed from power and face justice,” Mr Jalil said in a statement.
Meanwhile Libya’s regime yesterday called for volunteers to take up arms to fight “Crusader” forces and rebels, after an appeal by Muammar Gaddafi for mobilisation.
“The general committee for the defence announces the opening of offices to register combatants, men and women, who want to fight against the Crusader forces and gangs of traitors,” state TV reported.
Col Gaddafi on Friday ordered a mobilisation and called on his supporters to march on positions occupied by rebels fighting since February to oust him from power after four decades of authoritarian rule.
And Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the maverick Russian head of world chess said yesterday he had met Muammar Gaddafi’s eldest son in Tripoli, who told him Western special forces were stationed in the capital to kill the Libyan leader.