Sunday, 5 June 2011

Russia Says NATO Ground Assault In Libya Imminent

NATO action in Libya is gradually evolving into a land operation, Russia's foreign minister warned on Saturday.

The French armed forces website said on Saturday that British and French light aviation helicopters of the ground forces had delivered pinpoint strikes at Libya on Friday night as part of NATO's military operation.

"We know that France and Britain intend to use combat helicopters, which we see as intentional or unintentional development of NATO's operation into a land operation," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Russia originally opposed any international military interference into the armed confrontation between supporters and opponents of Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year regime in Libya.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last week that Gaddafi's regime had lost its legitimacy and the Libyan leader must leave his post. Moscow is sending a presidential envoy, Mikhail Margelov, to Libya next week for talks with the rebels' ruling body.

The NATO-led military campaign against Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi has in fact turned into ground operation, Russia's envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said on Thursday.

“Several members of the Western coalition fell outside the limits of UN Security Council’s resolution long ago and started pounding ground targets, started taking sides, putting their advisors on the ground…to some extent this already is a ground operation,” Rogozin said on Rossiya 24 TV channel.

Al Jazeera on May 30 broadcast TV footage showing a group of armed Westerners with rebel fighters near the city of Misrata.

Fourteen of the 28 NATO countries are taking part in operation Unified Protector in Libya, which includes airstrikes, a no-fly zone and naval enforcement of an arms embargo in response to attacks on civilians.

Russia abstained in the Security Council vote authorizing the NATO-led military operation, and has strongly criticized the alliance's handling it.

On May 25, NATO assured Russia that no ground operation was planned for Libya.

On June 1, NATO Secretary General Andres Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance would continue its military campaign in the war-torn African country until at least September.

Western media reports claim the United States has suggested the Libyan rebels open a representative office in Washington.