Russia hosts Libyan foreign minister for talks

Wed Jul 20, 2011 2:54pm GMT

By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW, Jul (Reuters) - Russia hosted Libya's foreign minister on Wednesday, pressing ahead with efforts to engage Muammar Gaddafi's government in contrast to what it calls a counterproductive Western "policy of isolation".

Moscow says Gaddafi must give up power but has criticised Western military and diplomatic support for the rebels fighting to end his 41-year rule in Libya, where Russia had billions of dollars in energy, arms and infrastructure deals.

President Dmitry Medvedev, whose Africa envoy has met both rebels in Benghazi and top officials in Tripoli in recent weeks, said on Tuesday there was still a chance for compromise between the warring sides.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Libyan counterpart Abdelati Obeidi met behind closed doors. Obeidi did not speak to reporters as he entered the Foreign Ministry.

Konstantin Kosachyov, a leading pro-Kremlin lawmaker who heads the international affairs committee in Russia's lower parliament house, said the Moscow meeting had been requested by the Libyan side and called for cautious optimism.

"It means that people who are still in power in Tripoli are ready to talk and not just suppress the resistance of the population with tanks or other heavy weapons," said Kosachyov, a member of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling party.

Kosachyov cast Russia's diplomacy as the "antithesis" of the approach of Western nations that have bombed state facilities and recognised the rebel Transitional National Council as Libya's legitimate government.

Such actions undermine diplomacy and "lead the negotiations track into a dead end," Kosachyov told reporters.   Continued...

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