Putin Says West Action Like a Medieval Crusade
    2011-03-22 09:02:51     Shanghai Daily/Agencies      Web Editor: Yihang

Security guards protect United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second right) as pro-Gadhafi protesters try to block his path as he leaves the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on his way to Tahrir Square after a meeting with Arab League chief Amr Moussa yesterday. A group of protesters angry about international intervention in the war in Libya between Moammar Gadhafi and rebel forces started a scuffle, forcing the UN chief to return to the headquarters and leave by another exit. [Photo: Shanghai.com/Agencies]

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said a United Nations resolution authorizing military action in Libya resembled "medieval calls for crusades" after Western forces launched a second wave of airstrikes.

As diplomatic tempers over the campaign flared, officials in Tripoli said a missile intended to kill Moammar Gadhafi had destroyed a building in his fortified compound, which was heavily bombed in 1986 by the Reagan administration.

"It was a barbaric bombing," said government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim, showing pieces of shrapnel that he said came from the missile. "This contradicts American and Western (statements) ... that it is not their target to attack this place."

There was no comment on the strike from attacking forces.

On Libyan television on Sunday, Gadhafi promised his enemies a "long war" after the UN-authorised intervention in the uprising against his 41-year rule of the north African desert state.

"The resolution is defective and flawed," said Putin, whose country did not use its power to veto the resolution at the UN. "It allows everything. It resembles medieval calls for crusades," Putin added.

Libyan rebels yesterday welcomed the second wave of attacks.

"The committee rejects foreign troops on the ground but we encourage the bombardment of Gadhafi's army," Ahmed El-Hasi, a spokesman for the February 17 opposition coalition, said in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi where the uprising began.

He said rebels coordinated with international powers on airstrikes. "There is a connection between us. One, to pinpoint the position of Gadhafi's troops, and two, to pinpoint the position of our fighters so they don't get hit with bombardments."

The first strikes on Saturday halted the advance of Gadhafi forces on Benghazi and targeted Libya's air defences in order to let Western warplanes patrol the skies of Libya.

The second wave of Western airstrikes also hit Gadhafi's troops around Ajdabiyah, a strategic town in the barren scrub of east Libya that rebels aim to retake.

The UN-mandated intervention also drew criticism from Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who questioned the need for a heavy bombardment, which he said had killed many civilians.

Moussa said yesterday, however, that the league respected the UN resolution while stressing the need to protect civilians.

The United States, carrying out the airstrikes in a coalition with Britain, France, Italy and Canada among others, said the campaign was working and dismissed a cease-fire announcement by the Libyan military on Sunday.

Underlining its commitment to avoiding civilian casualties, Britain's defense ministry said one air force mission was called off because of civilians in the target area.

"As the RAF GR4 Tornados approached the target, further information came to light ... As a result the decision was taken not to launch weapons," a spokesman said.

The intervention in Libya is the biggest in an Arab country since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Withdrawal of Arab support would make it harder to pursue what some analysts say could in any case be an open-ended campaign with an uncertain outcome.

Italy said it had warplanes in the air, after US and British warships and submarines launched 110 Tomahawk missiles on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Late on Sunday night, Libyan officials took Western reporters to Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli, a sprawling complex that houses his private quarters as well as military barracks, anti-aircraft batteries and other installations, to see what they said was the site of a missile attack two hours earlier.

A short walk from a brightly lit tent where Gadhafi receives his guests, a three-story building stood in ruins, and a circular hole was visible on its facade.

The wrecked building was close to a house in the compound which was attacked by the Reagan administration and which was never rebuilt.
Outside, in a symbol of defiance, a giant golden fist crumples a model of an American fighter plane.

The US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said a no-fly zone was now in place. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the US would not have a "pre-eminent role" in maintaining it, and expected to turn over "primary responsibility" within days, perhaps to Britain or France.

US officials, eager to avoid similarities to the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, have been playing down Washington's role and emphasizing that overthrowing or killing Gadhafi was not the goal of the attacks.

Gates told reporters: "I think this is basically going to have to be resolved by the Libyans themselves."

French planes fired the first shots of the intervention on Saturday, destroying tanks and armored vehicles near Benghazi.

France sent an aircraft carrier towards Libya and its planes were over the country again on Sunday, defence officials said. Britain said its planes had targeted Libya's air defences, mainly around Tripoli.

Other countries, including Qatar, also dispatched aircraft to take part in the operation, US officials said.



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