Russia calls for immediate ceasefire amid US defence minister visit

AFP , Tuesday 22 Mar 2011

Russia's defence minister calls for ceasefire and dialogue as he meets his US counterpart, Robert Gates

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates walks past the Russian honor guard as he arrives to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Tuesday 22 March 2011. (AP)

Russia wants to see an immediate ceasefire in Libya and the start of political negotiations, Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told visiting US Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday.

"We urge [the sides] to do everything to end the violence," Serdyukov said after closed-door talks with his US counterpart, adding that Moscow believed Libyan civilians had been killed in the Western air strikes.

"We are convinced that the shortest path to the safety of peaceful civilians is through an immediate ceasefire and the start of dialogue," Serdyukov said.

"Significant" military action in Libya should recede in a matter of days, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates affirmed Tuesday during talks with his Russian counterpart.

Russia abstained from last week's UN Security Council vote approving international military involvement in Libya, which aims to protect civilians against Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday suggested that Moscow could potentially help mediate a political solution to the conflict.

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