Gates: Military action in Libya should recede soon

US defense secretary visits Russia amidst tensions between the countries over Libya mission; Russia calls for immediate ceasefire.

By REUTERS
March 22, 2011 15:37
1 minute read.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Russia

Gates 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday said that military fighting in Libya should recede in the next few days. Gates was on a state visit to Russia, who abstained from voting for the UN Security Council resolution authorizing military action in Libya.

After a meeting with Gates, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said that an immediate ceasefire would be the best way to protect civilians in Libya.

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Serdyukov said Russia believes "that an immediate cease-fire and a dialogue between the belligerent parties is the surest path to the reliable security of civilians."

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Serdyukov condemned civilian deaths in Libya. Gates said that the western coalition was trying to avoid civilian casualties and is targeting air defenses in sparsely populated areas.

Gates aded that some people in Russia seem to believe what he termed Muammar Gaddafi's "lies" about civilian casualties in Libya.

"We've been very careful about this and it's almost as though some people here are taking at face value Gaddafi's claims about the number of civilian casualties, which as far as I am concerned are just outright lies," Gates told reporters after talks with Serdyukov.

Gates will not meet Prime Minister Vladimir Putin but will see President Dmitry Medvedev, who rebuked his mentor on Monday for comparing the West's call for action in Libya to the crusades, the most public difference yet between Russia's ruling tandem ahead of 2012 elections.

Gates, speaking in St. Petersburg at the start of his two-day visit to Russia, told Interfax the mission was to establish a no-fly zone and "prevent a humanitarian disaster, to prevent Gaddafi from slaughtering his own people".

"I think we've made a lot of progress just in a couple of days toward accomplishing those two objectives," he said in an interview with the news agency.

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