Russia denounces Libya contact group as 'illegitimate'

In a series of sharply worded comments on the situation, Sergei Lavrov, Russia's hawkish foreign minister, made it clear that the Kremlin bitterly regretted not vetoing the United Nations resolution that sanctioned a no-fly zone over Libya in March.

"The contact group is a self-appointed organisational structure that somehow made itself responsible for how the (UN) resolution is carried out," Mr Lavrov said while on a trip to Kazakhstan.

"From the point of view of international law this group has no legitimacy." The contact group was formed at an international ministerial conference in London on 29 March and includes European powers such as Britain as well as the US, allies from the Middle East and a number of international organisations.

But according to Mr Lavrov, who said Russia had no intention of joining the group, it set a dangerous precedent by giving false hope of Western intervention to opposition movements across the Middle East.

The Kremlin would therefore not allow the West to push any Libya-style resolutions through the UN regarding Syria or any other countries in future, he warned.

"We do not want the Libyan scenario repeated," he said, arguing that the West had gone well beyond the terms of the original UN mandate anyway.

"There are too many violations of the UN security Council resolution." In particular, he said Russia found the alleged bombing of civilian targets, hospitals and diplomatic facilities unjustifiable. "These are unacceptable acts. The UN Security Council did not sanction such actions and to try to justify them by claiming that the coalition is not exceeding its mandate is not enough," he said.

The issue of how Russia responds to events in Libya has revealed splits in the Kremlin with President Dmitry Medvedev apparently more sympathetic to the West's actions in contrast to Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, who has likened them to a medieval crusade.

[Source: By Andrew Osborn, The Telegraph, Moscow, 13May11]

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