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Russia's FM knocks down no-fly zone for Libya

Russia urges countries to focus instead on UN Security Council's sanctions

AP , Tuesday 1 Mar 2011
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Russia's top diplomat ruled out the idea of creating a no-fly zone over Libya on Tuesday as embattled leader Moammar Gaddafi unleashed bombing raids, special forces and army troops in a desperate bid to retain power.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the idea of imposing limits on Libyan air space as "superfluous" and said world powers must instead focus on fully using the sanctions that the U.N. Security Council approved over the weekend.

Leaders in the U.S., Europe and Australia suggested the military no-fly zone tactic - used successfully for years in northern Iraq - to prevent Gaddafi from bombing his own people. Russia's consent is required as a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, the U.N.'s most powerful arm.

The council's sanctions include an arms embargo on Gaddafi, four of his sons and a daughter and leaders of revolutionary committees accused of much of the violence against opponents. It urged 192 member nations to freeze Libyan assets and authorized an investigation into Gaddafi's regime for possible crimes against humanity.

The Europe Union added its own sanctions Monday to force the dictator to stop attacks on civilians and step down after 42 years of iron-fisted rule. It issued travel bans and an asset freeze against senior Libyan officials, and ordered an arms embargo on the country. Germany went further, proposing a 60-day economic embargo to prevent Gaddafi from using oil and other revenues to repress his people.

The travel and financial sanctions are aimed at peeling away loyalists from Gaddafi in the hope of isolating him further.

The EU action is significant because Europe has much more leverage over Libya than the United States; 85 per cent of Libyan oil goes to Europe, and Gaddafi and his family are thought to have significant assets in Britain, Switzerland and Italy. Switzerland and Britain already have frozen Libyan assets.

The Libyan uprising that began 15 February has swept over nearly the entire eastern half of the country, putting entire cities there out of Gaddafi's grasp. But he and his backers hold the capital of Tripoli and have threatened to put down protests aggressively.

There have been reports that Gaddafi's government forces have fired indiscriminately on peaceful protesters, even from ambulances misused for that purpose, and that as many as 1,000 people have died.

U.N. council members did not consider imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, and no U.N.-sanctioned military action was planned. NATO says any intervention in Libya would have to be U.N.-authorized.

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