UPDATE 2-No U.N. mandate to attack Gaddafi forces -Russia

Mon Mar 28, 2011 12:57pm GMT
 

Russia has veto power as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council but chose not to block the resolution, which authorised "all necessary measures to enforce compliance" with no-fly zones.

However, Russian leaders have expressed concern that the resolution gave coalition forces too much leeway and the intervention was causing civilian deaths. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin compared the resolution to "medieval calls for crusades".

Lavrov did not say whether Russia would make any effort to restrict operations by the coalition, which is now led by NATO.

In Paris, a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said "the coalition of participating countries is strictly complying with the terms" of the resolution and the U.N. secretary-general was regularly informed of the measures being taken.

Lavrov's remarks, hours before U.S. President Barack Obama was expected to define the mission's purpose and scope in an address, suggested Russia could step up criticism if the coalition took steps Moscow believed went further beyond its mandate.

In Libya, rebels emboldened by Western-led air strikes against Gaddafi's forces pushed west along the Mediterranean coast to retake a series of towns.

Obama's administration has praised Russia for allowing the resolution to go through but has clashed with the Kremlin over the subject of civilian casualties.

In Moscow last week, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said some Russians seemed to take what he termed Gaddafi's "lies" about civilian casualties at face value.

Lavrov reiterated Russia's concern about reports of civilian casualties, which he said had not yet been confirmed, and indicated Russia wanted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy Abdelilah Al-Khatib to look into them.

Lavrov said Russia's concerns about the broad authority granted to foreign powers enforcing the no-fly zone were among the reasons it abstained in the Security Council vote. (Editing by Andrew Dobbie)

 
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