Russia accuses Nato of 'expanding' UN Libya resolution

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The Independent Online

The differences between Nato and Russia over the West's bombing campaign in Libya were laid bare yesterday after Moscow accused the alliance of interpreting a UN resolution on military intervention to suit its own ends.

Tense talks between Nato and Russian officials on the sidelines of a Nato-Russia Council meeting in Sochi come as the West seeks with increasing urgency a military breakthrough in the Libyan conflict amid indications that Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has little intention of relinquishing power in the face of opposition to his 41-year rule.

"So far, there is no common understanding over how the resolution is being implemented," Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, said yesterday, referring to the UN Security Council resolution in March that sanctioned the enforcement of a no-fly zone to protect civilians from retaliatory attacks by the regime. "We want this resolution to be fulfilled literally, without expanding its interpretation."

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato's Secretary General, who is also facing divisions within the alliance over Libya, robustly defended its actions. He insisted Nato would continue its air campaign until the threat to civilians from Colonel Gaddafi's forces ended. "Everything Nato does... is in full compliance with the UN mandate," he said.

Meanwhile, Saif Gaddafi, the Libyan leader's son, again threatened to launch attacks on members of the alliance. He told French television that countries such as Britain and France were "legitimate targets", adding in a message to Nicolas Sarkozy: "You are not going to win. You have no chance, zero chance, to win the war here."

The Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Jacob Zuma, the South African President who has helped drive efforts by the African Union to broker a political solution, joined the talks in Russia, which have foundered due to the entrenched positions of Libyan regime officials and rebels.

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