August 26, 2008 / 5:47 PM / 11 years ago

Russia, angry with US, takes up Afghan attack at UN

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Russia, at odds with the United States over Georgia, will press the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to condemn U.S.-led air strikes in Afghanistan that killed dozens of civilians, diplomats said.

The Russian delegation has drafted a statement, seen by Reuters, that would say the council’s 15 member states are "seriously concerned" about the U.S.-led coalition attacks on Aug. 22, which the U.N. mission in Afghanistan says it believes left 90 civilians dead, most of them children.

Russia and the United States are permanent members of the council with veto power, along with France, Britain and China.

The draft statement, which several diplomats said had no chance of getting the unanimous backing it would need for approval, also says council members "deplore" the fact that this has happened before in Afghanistan.

"I think the Russians want to divert attention from Georgia and annoy the Americans," said one diplomat on the sidelines of a council session on unrelated matters.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was asked whether the draft statement was linked to the Georgian crisis, but he declined to comment. "We hope it’s going to be adopted by the council," he told reporters.

The council will meet again later on Tuesday to discuss Somalia and the Russian statement, diplomats said.

The U.S. military has launched an investigation of the incident, after first saying it was unaware of any civilian casualties in an air strike on a known Taliban commander that killed 30 militants.

TRADING INSULTS

U.N. envoys from Russia and the United States have repeatedly exchanged insults and accusations in recent weeks on the issue of Georgia, which Russian troops invaded earlier this month to thwart a Georgian attempt to retake a rebel enclave.

Diplomats said the council was not scheduled to discuss Russia’s decision on Tuesday to recognize the independence of Georgia’s two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"It’s possible it might come up," said another diplomat. "It’s a pretty important development."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he regretted that Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia might complicate the council’s efforts to solve the crisis and could have an impact on "security and stability in the Caucasus."

The crisis erupted after Georgia, a former Soviet state, sent its military on Aug. 7-8 to try to recapture South Ossetia. Russia responded with overwhelming force, sending troops and tanks far into Georgia.

Relations between Russia and Georgia have worsened sharply in recent years over a Georgian drive to join NATO.

Due to Russia’s veto power, the Security Council has been deadlocked over Georgia.

Two competing draft resolutions on Georgia have been circulated to council members — a Russian one and a Western text drafted by the French.

Neither is ready to be put to a vote, though Western council diplomats said they hoped a revised version of the French text would be ready for a vote soon. (Editing by John O’Callaghan)




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