Russia warns of interfering in Libyan affairs

Ahram Online and AFP, Thursday 10 Mar 2011

Europe and Russia between 'dialogue'and 'meddling' in Libya

Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado on Thursday said he had sent a message to Maummar Gaddafi through a Tripoli envoy saying: "The Gaddafi regime is over".

Amado, who in Lisbon the previous day met a Gaddafi envoy in a hotel for what he described as an "informal" encounter, said on arriving in Brussels for talks with his 26 European Union counterparts:

"The message I sent was that the Gaddafi regime in our view is over, it's legitimacy is over".

Amado, whose country chairs the United Nations sanctions committee, said he had also met the same day with members of the Libyan opposition to Gaddafi.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Thursday said Paris and Berlin were calling on their European Union partners to engage in dialogue with Libyan opposition leaders.

Speaking after talks with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Juppe said, "We are on the same track to say Colonel Gaddafi is discredited, he must go, we must engage dialogue with the new Libyan representatives."

Juppe spoke as the EU's 27 foreign ministers arrived in Brussels for emergency talks on Libya as NATO defence ministers also prepared to mull options at separate talks in the EU capital.

Shortly before, France became the first country to recognise Libya's opposition national council and said it would send an ambassador to the rebel-held city of Benghazi.

The national council is the only "legitimate representative of the Libyan people," the French presidency said in a statement after meeting in Paris with its envoys.

According to media reports, the UK sent a joint letter with Germany to the EU demanding union agree to a declaration that "the EU and its member states will not work or co-operate with Gaddafi and that he has to step aside to allow for a true democratic transformation of the country," as quoted in the Gaurdian. 

Meanwhile, Russia insisted that meddling with Libyan affairs and other African states was unacceptable and warned of military intereference.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday that Russia was willing to listen to proposals for a no-fly zone over Libya, saying Moscow's approval depended on how the system would work.

Lavrov, who previously said Russia opposed any military intervention in Libya, said Moscow would base its decision on a more detailed analysis of the humanitarian situation in the crisis-torn country.

"Yes, of course we hear talk about the idea of creating a no-fly zone in Libya. ... Such zones have been deployed in the past by the Security Council and we already have certain experience in the ways they function," Russia's top diplomat said.

"So if such proposals emerge, we will naturally study them based on existing experience. And this will probably require more precise and detailed information about how the authors of these proposals expect to implement them in practice."

Lavrov said Russia's decision to back the international response depended on which nations would police the no-fly zone and what weapons would be used.

"These are very important things," Lavrov said. "But the most important thing for us now is to receive an objective, independent analysis of what is happening in Libya. And here, the decisive role will be played by efforts of the special representative of the UN Security Council."

The Security Council is expected to hear a report from its special envoy on the human rights situation in Libya shortly.

Lavrov's comments came as NATO defense ministers prepared to meet Thursday in Brussels seeking consensus on intense contingency planning that has included study of no-fly zones, humanitarian missions and other possible military action.

Officials did not comment publicly on their strategy heading into the talks, other than to respond to calls for a no-fly zone by saying the option, though complex and problematic, is under active consideration.

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