NATO envoy: Russia won't arm Gadhafi

July 19, 2011 at 6:25 AM   |   0 comments

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MOSCOW, July 19 (UPI) -- Russia's envoy to NATO has again blasted France's move to arm Libyan rebels but says his country has no plans to supply weapons to Libya leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Speaking to the Ekho Moskvy radio station Sunday, Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin reiterated Russian complaints that NATO countries are circumventing the U.N. Security Council resolution that permitted military action to protect civilians.

But, he added, Moscow wouldn't seek to arm Gadhafi's embattled regime in response, RIA Novosti reported.

"Both the Russian legislation and the legislation of the European Union states ban any supplies of arms to a territory hit by a civil conflict or a civil war," Rogozin said.

The comments came after a week in which Russia publicly agreed with the United States that Gadhafi's days of running the country "are numbered."

Rogozin said Moscow would refrain from arming the Libyan dictator despite what he called "disgraceful" actions by NATO members in giving weapons to rebels and carrying out airstrikes that, he said, go beyond the authorizations granted by the loosely worded Security Council resolution.

"The air-dropping of arms to (Libyan) rebels by French helicopters is the subject of our very complex talks with them (NATO states)," Rogozin told the broadcaster.

The French Defense Ministry confirmed late last month the country had directly supplied weapons to Libyan rebel groups, which Russia sees as a strategic shift from protecting civilians from forces loyal to Gadhafi.

French army Col. Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the French armed forces, confirmed the military had parachuted assault rifles and other weapons to rebels but insisted it was in keeping with the Security Council resolution because the purpose was to protect civilians.

"The goal was to protect civilian populations and this action has allowed that," Thierry told reporters.

French media reports, however, indicated the weapons drops included not just assault rifles but anti-tank rockets and light-armored vehicles.

Russia has insisted the moves are in contravention of February's Security Council Resolution 1970, which prohibited states from providing any kind of arms to Libya. Another measure passed in March, Resolution 1973, authorized countries "to take all necessary measures" to help protect Libyan civilians.

Russia abstained on the second resolution.

Despite the criticisms of NATO and France, however, Russia last week changed its stance from only supporting negotiations between Gadhafi and the rebels to agreeing that an end to Gadhafi's 40-year rule should be part of the outcome.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters last week they agreed Gadhafi's "days were numbered" as Libya's leader.

Lavrov stressed "our position is a little different" on Libya because of "the way the U.N. resolution of the Security Council is being followed."

But, he added, "I would like to say that on this topic we have fewer misunderstandings with the United States than we do with some European countries."

The Russian diplomat called for a "political process" between Tripoli and the rebel groups to begin "as soon as possible. And we have (put) different channels, official and unofficial, to work (to) create conditions for this process."

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