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U.N. Security Council Opens New Session on Libya

The U.N. Security Council began a closed-door meeting on Libya Monday, diplomats said, amid rising international criticism of air strikes directed at the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.

Missile and air strikes launched over the weekend by U.S., British and French forces targeted Libyan air defense systems to impose a no-fly zone on Gadhafi's forces, and on Sunday demolished a building in the Libyan leader's compound.

The Libyan foreign ministry, in a statement over the weekend, demanded an emergency session of the Security Council "following the French-American-British aggression against Libya, an independent state and member of the United Nations."

"The member states are going to study this demand and make a pronouncement," said a diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, ahead of the talks.

Another U.N. diplomat said the meeting would provide a formal response to Libya's request, adding that, "We see this as a very helpful opportunity to be transparent with the council members about what action the UK and others in the coalition have taken so far."

As it will be a closed-door session, Libya was unlikely to be represented in the discussions, a diplomat said.

The Security Council passed a resolution on Thursday authorizing the use of "all necessary measures" to protect civilians and impose the no-fly zone after Gadhafi's forces appeared on the verge of crushing a month-long rebellion.

But on Sunday, the Arab League's Secretary General Amr Moussa expressed misgivings about the air strikes, even though the 22-member Arab body on March 12 called for a no-fly zone and declared that Gadhafi had lost his legitimacy.

"What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone and what we want is the protection of civilians and not bombing other civilians," Moussa told reporters.

"From the start we requested only that a no-fly zone be set up to protect Libyan civilians and avert any other developments or additional measures," he added.

Moussa later said his comments had been misinterpreted but Germany, which along with four other members of the Security Council abstained from voting on the resolution, pointed to his apparent second thoughts as vindication of its reservations.

"We calculated the risks, and when we see that three days after this intervention began, the Arab League has already criticized this intervention, I think we see we had good reasons," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday slammed the resolution as "a medieval call to crusade" and testament to the U.S. tendency to use force against Third World countries.

"The resolution by the Security Council, of course, is defective and flawed," Russian news agencies quoted Putin as telling workers on a visit to a missile factory.

"I am concerned about the ease with which the decision to use force was taken," he said.

Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India all abstained from the resolution authorizing the use of force.

Source: Agence France Presse


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