Russia says Western support for Libyan rebels 'dangerous'

The backing of Libyan rebels by Western powers could lead to further conflict in the region, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.

Speaking during a visit to the Serbian capital of Belgrade, Russia's top diplomat argued that the opposition in Yemen "refuses to sit at the negotiating table because they hope that the West will help them. This is a dangerous position and one that may lead to conflict."

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution imposing a no-fly zone over Libya on March 17, paving the way for a military operation against embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, which began two days later. The command of the operation was shifted from a U.S.-led international coalition to NATO in late March.

Lavrov also reiterated statements by Russia's NATO envoy, Dmitry Rogozin, who said on Monday that the actions of Western states in Libya were in contravention of the UN resolution on the North African state.

"The U.N. Security Council never aimed to topple the Libyan regime," Lavrov said. "All those who are currently using the U.N. resolution for that aim are violating the U.N. mandate."

"We urge the Security Council to encourage not confrontation, but the immediate start of talks," he went on.

Yemen has been in a state of conflict since February, when protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule broke out amid unrest across the Middle East. Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds injured in a violent crackdown on protesters by security forces.

[Source: RIA Novosti, Belgrade, 19Apr11]

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