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
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
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.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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