Russia and NATO have failed to narrow their differences over the Western air campaign in Libya, after Moscow accused the alliance of interpreting a United Nations resolution on military intervention any way it wished.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen defended the alliance’s Libya mission Monday during a visit to the Russian city of Sochi, where he discussed Libya with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and visiting South African President Jacob Zuma. Mr. Zuma has led the African Union’s efforts to help negotiate a peaceful settlement in Libya.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there is “no common understanding” about how the resolution is being implemented. He said Moscow wants the U. N. mandate to be fulfilled as worded, without expanding its interpretation.
As NATO has increased airstrikes to support rebel forces, Russia has said the alliance is overstepping its bounds. Moscow was particularly angered by revelations last week about a direct French arms drop to rebels fighting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. Russia did not vote on the U. N. Security Council resolution in March that gave NATO the authority to protect civilians in Libya with military means.
In related news, officials from Mr. Gadhafi’s government Monday said progress has been made in talks with opposition leaders to end the four-month conflict.
The Associated Press quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim as saying talks have been on-going for two months. He said the negotiations have included some members of the Transitional National Council that has represented rebels in international diplomacy.
Also Monday, one of Mr. Gadhafi’s sons warned that the family will not quit or leave Libya. Saif al-Islam Gadhafi told the French TV channel TF1 that “We will never surrender.”
TNC head Mustafa Abdel Jalil on Monday distanced himself from earlier comments attributed to him that Libya’s rebel leadership may consider allowing Mr. Gadhafi to remain in the country as part of a transition deal, provided he resigns and orders a cease-fire.
Jalil took the reins of the rebel movement after resigning from Libya’s government in February over what he saw as excessive use of force against demonstrators calling for the leader’s resignation.
Libyan government spokesman Musa Ibrahim has previously said the prospect of a peace deal would be welcomed, but not one that rests on Mr. Gadhafi’s departure.