SOCHI – NATO’s chief has staunchly defended its operation in Libya during a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in the southern Russian resort town of Sochi, according to the BBC. Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the campaign was being undertaken in “strict conformity” with the UN Security Council resolution authorising it. Russia earlier said deep differences over the operation were hindering efforts to build deeper ties.
Russia has criticised the bombing of Libya, saying the mission has lost its original focus on protecting civilians, and is now about removing the Libyan government. It abstained from the UN Security Council vote which authorised the action in Libya. In a statement, Russia called for an “immediate ceasefire” and talks “with support, but not interference, from outside the country”. But during a break in the meeting Rasmussen defended the Nato operation.
“The Russian side has voiced some concerns related to our operation in Libya,” he told reporters. “We have stressed that we are carrying out this operation in strict conformity with the UN Security Council resolution. We have been mandated to take all necessary means to protect civilians against attacks and so far we have been very successful in protecting civilians,” he said.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said differences over the war in Libya and missile defence were hindering efforts to build a strategic partnership. The issue was likely to come up again when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met Rasmussen for talks later.
On Sunday Libyan rebels rejected an AU peace initiative, with rebel spokesman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga saying: “We have rejected it. It did not include the departure of Gaddafi, his sons and his inner circle.” Later, the head of the rebel Transitional National Council Mustafa Abdul Jalil signalled what appeared to be a significant policy shift, saying Col Gaddafi would be welcome to live out his retirement inside Libya as long as he gave up all power.