NATO seeking 'southern expansion' - Russian envoy

The NATO operation in Libya marks the end of the alliance's eastward expansion policy and the beginning of a shift southward, Russia's envoy to the alliance Dmitry Rogozin said on Wednesday.

Rogozin met with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during a conference on missile defense in London on Wednesday.

"The war in Libya means the end of the process of the alliance's expansion to the east and the beginning of its expansion south," Rogozin said.

Rogozin said NATO "is being drawn into a ground operation" in Libya, and criticized the alliance for its free interpretation of a UN resolution allowing airstrikes in the war-torn country.

"My impression is that the UN Security Coouncil resolution is a slender, harmonious symphony, but NATO's interpretation of it is more like jazz," Rogozin said.

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 from the Security Council vote authorizing the NATO-led military operation, and has strongly criticized the alliance's handling of the operation.

Mikhail Margelov, who is leading Moscow's mediation efforts in the Libyan conflict as President Dmitry Medvedev's special envoy, said on Monday he would visit Tripoli next week for talks with top government officials.

[Source: RIA Novosti, London, 15Jun11]

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