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Mon 21 Mar 2011 06:31 PM

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World deeply divided over Libyan military action

Russian Prime Minister says authorisation for action resembles 'medieval calls for crusades'

World deeply divided over Libyan military action
Russian President Vladimir Putin with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. (Getty Images)
World deeply divided over Libyan military action
(Getty Images)
World deeply divided over Libyan military action
(AFP/Getty Images)
World deeply divided over Libyan military action
World deeply divided over Libyan military action
Poster of Gaddafi

The international community was

deeply divided over Libya on Monday, just days after the United

Nations passed a no-fly resolution that allowed Western air

strikes to protect civilians from Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

Russia and China abstained in Thursday's Security Council

vote on the no-fly zone but issued trenchant criticism of the

operation, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin comparing the

air campaign to "medieval crusades".

That highly emotive language earned him a rare rebuke from

his former protégé, Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president

saying Moscow would not participate in any military coalition in

Libya but was open to a peacekeeping role.

The divisions, which have affected European allies, NATO and

the Arab world, reflect diverse domestic agendas and foreign

policy goals.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa said he respected a UN

resolution authorising military action in Libya, having

questioned at the weekend the need for a heavy bombardment he

said had killed many civilians.

"We respect the U.N. resolution and there is no conflict

with it, especially as it indicated there would be no invasion

but that it would protect civilians from what they are subject

to in Benghazi," Moussa said.

The Western air campaign, led by France, the United States

and Britain, has divided NATO member states with Germany saying

the Arab League's criticism of the operation vindicated its

decision not to get involved.

"We calculated the risk. If we see that three days after

this intervention began, the Arab League already criticises

(it), I think we had good reasons," German Foreign Minister

Guido Westerwelle told reporters. "We see that we have reasons

for our concern."

The Arab world, too, was divided on the issue. Qatari

warplanes have joined the international strike force imposing

the no-fly zone. Iraq said it supported international

intervention, although influential Shi'ite cleric Moqtada

al-Sadr condemned it and said Western states should avoid

civilian casualties.

Libyan rebels themselves have welcomed the air campaign,

which has, for now, halted the advance of Gaddafi's forces on

the rebels' stronghold in the eastern city of Benghazi.

It has not yet allowed them to break out towards Tripoli,

but the rebels say they want to take the capital themselves and

do not want foreign ground troops.

"The committee rejects foreign troops on the ground but we

encourage the (aerial) bombardments of Gaddafi's army," Ahmed

El-Hasi, a spokesman for the February 17 opposition coalition,

said in Benghazi.

The United States, with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, has

ruled out sending in its forces and French Foreign Minister

Alain Juppe said Arab countries did not want the military

operation to be run by NATO.

Turkey, a key member of the Western military alliance, is

sceptical about any NATO role and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan

said the military operation against Gaddafi's forces should end

as quickly as possible so Libyans could settle their own future.

"NATO should go in with the recognition and acknowledgement

that Libya belongs to the Libyans, not for the distribution of

its underground resources and wealth," he said on a visit to

Mecca, Islam's holiest city.

"Our biggest desire is for the Libyan people to determine

their own future."

Gabonese President Omar Bongo Ondimba, whose country is a

member of the UN Security Council, said it had been hoped that

the resolution would lead to an immediate ceasefire.

"We are hoping that it is going to be a short campaign and

that will lead to a ceasefire and a situation where it will be

easier to find a solution, a peaceful solution, negotiated

rather than by way of force," he told Reuters.

China earlier stepped up its criticism of the Libya

operation, its official newspapers accusing countries involved

in the air campaign of breaking international rules and courting

new turmoil in the Middle East.

"It should be seen that every time military means are used

to address crises, that is a blow to the United Nations charter

and the rules of international relations," said a commentary in

the People's Daily.

Beijing's reservations were echoed in Moscow - both

capitals enjoy the power of veto in the UN Security Council as

permanent members - where Russia's paramount leader Putin said

the UN move on Libya "resembles medieval calls for crusades".

"What troubles me is not the fact of military intervention

itself - I am concerned by the ease with which decisions to use

force are taken in international affairs," he said. "This is

becoming a persistent tendency in US policy," he added.

The comments earned a swift rejoinder from Medvedev, who

told reporters outside his Moscow residence: "In no way is it

acceptable to use expressions that in essence lead to a clash of

civilisations, such as crusades and so forth - this is


It is rare for the two men to disagree publicly and it was

not immediately clear if the apparent spat reflected a genuine

disagreement, a difference in tone or a desire to speak to

different constituencies at home and abroad.

Ghazi Al Hind 9 years ago

USA, Britain and France are crazy states.

Salim Shaikh 9 years ago

No need for general public to comment.....there are already more qualified comments from the world leaders themselves i.e;

Russia's paramount leader Putin said on the UN move on Libya
"What troubles me is not the fact of military intervention itself - I am concerned by the ease with which decisions to use force are taken in international affairs," he said. "This is becoming a persistent tendency in US policy," he added. (He didn't say UN)

Besides it is very easy to drop bombs, but very difficult to control on whom they fall......Such an operation should precede
intensive heralds through the media to advise the civilians to take cover.

Kat 9 years ago

As Libya was such a huge customer for Russian weaponry I don't question Putin's comments - he sees Ghaddafi - essentially his customer and buddy losing power - it's basically $4 billion worth of arms sales down the pan for Vlad and his Oligarchs.

That means they have to start the haggling process again, probably against the US, UK and France, and he would rather be doing something else - it's a case of better the devil you know than the devil you don't. Vladimir Putin is a wind bag who does nothing more than snipe from the sidelines like a Moscow Dynamo Reserve

Saeid 9 years ago

Goes to show, you can't even try to please everyone.

To the West I say 'Well done!' for this one.

GWhiz 9 years ago

Quite an amazing statement when you think that Putin is the epitome of everything that the revolution of 1917 stood up against.

confused 9 years ago

that is a rather banal statement. I am not sure what you are referring to Ghazi?

Is it the stopping of the threat of a massacre in Benghazi? or just a general statement about countries in particular? or are you referring to the people?

gordon 9 years ago

salim that is one of the most naive statements I have heard in a long time. Qadafi is using human shields. Warning the public first will only increase the number of innocent people being killed.
I believe most of these people are not there voluntary. In the days of the war against Chad, Pakistani.s who came over to Libya looking for a job were surprised to find themselves suddenly in uniform and fighting in a war.

this man is evil, he will use all the tricks he can to stay in power. he will massacre anyone who gets in his way. So in this case the means has to justify the end. Get him out and get him out fast and give Libya back to the Libyans.

Evgeny 9 years ago

To the West i say: "Your turn will come and you will have to hide from bombs and missiles cowardly launched by someone bigger than you". Just wait.

Evgeny 9 years ago

There is no democracy. There is a group of western multinational corporations that need reserves and markets, that first need military contracts to destroy a country and then need construction contracts to rebuild what they have themselves destroyed, make trillions of dollars, along with the oil contracts to feed their appetite and finance new wars. And they will not stop an anything as long as we swallow the news.

Evgeny 9 years ago

And this is the very reason no country will ever feel safe until it gets nuclear weapons, because this is the only thing that can stop the “democrats” – when they understand that they are not immune to annihilation. This is why Iran will never stop its attempts to get it and will sooner or later have it. It is the West and it’s “democracy” that pushes the world to the verge of self-destruction. It is the ignorant Americans that would never learn a foreign language because they think everyone should speak their language and would never try to understand a different culture - they are “exporting democracy” in the form of destruction, pain and fear. And dear readers that comment here – please understand that you are not safe in your countries as long as there is practice of bombing and killing for the sake of “democracy”.