Wed, Dec 21, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Russia wants NATO air strikes in Libya probed

Reuters, UNITED NATIONS

Russia’s UN envoy on Monday demanded that there be a thorough investigation into the number of civilians killed in NATO air strikes during its military operations in Libya, which led to the ouster and death of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was reacting to news reports about civilian deaths caused by NATO. Reuters reported on Friday that human rights groups estimated that more than 50 civilians were killed by the air strikes, while the New York Times published on Sunday an estimate of between 40 and more than 70.

Churkin told reporters the NATO alliance has so far failed to provide the UN Security Council with details about civilian casualties.

“Unfortunately NATO adopted a pure propaganda stand, claiming zero civilian casualties in Libya, which was completely implausible, first of all, and, secondly, not true,” he said.

Churkin said he would raise the issue in the 15-nation Security Council tomorrow.

“We hope that NATO is going to revisit this entire problem, is going to investigate this matter,” he said, adding that the UN could help with the investigation.

Churkin also criticized UN -Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for suggesting last week that NATO had fully complied with its UN Security Council mandate to protect civilians in Libya.

“We expect the [UN] secretariat to be more careful when it passes its judgement on very important issues which the Security Council is dealing with,” he said.

After abstaining from a March 17 vote on UN Security Council resolution 1973, which authorized UN member states to enforce a no-fly zone and use “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians, Russia and China repeatedly accused NATO of overstepping its mandate by seeking to oust Qaddafi.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said last week that the alliance had no figures for civilian casualties that its bombing campaign may have caused, but took “every possible precaution to minimize the possibility of civilian casualties.”

She said it was impossible to entirely remove the risk to civilians, but the alliance “deeply regrets any loss of civilian life and if there is credible evidence it is for the Libyan authorities to take the lead in dealing with any such claim.”

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