PARIS (Reuters) - Russia wants to see Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi ousted, but only through a political transition and not a “manhunt,” its ambassador to France said Wednesday.
Speaking to Reuters before a summit of the Group of Eight powers in the French resort of Deauville, Alexander Orlov said Russia was ready to mediate in the conflict between government and rebels, but that this would require a ceasefire.
“Russia does not want Gaddafi to stay in power,” Orlov said. “He has committed crimes and must take responsibility for those, but in the political transition process, we want all parties to take part ...
“For an acceptable solution we need the wider spectrum of political forces in this country.”
U.S. President Barack Obama warned Gaddafi Wednesday there would be “no let-up” in pressure on him to go. However, almost three months of NATO air strikes have failed to dislodge him or resolve a military stalemate.
Russia abstained from a U.N. Security Council vote on the resolution that authorized military action to protect Libyan civilians, and has strongly criticized the NATO air strikes.
Orlov said the coalition had gone beyond its U.N. mandate.
France disclosed Monday that it and other members of the NATO-led coalition planned to deploy attack helicopters in Libya to increase the pressure on Gaddafi’s forces.
“Now we are seeing a sort of manipulation,” Orlov said.
“(They) are using this resolution for a manhunt, and the decision to send helicopters reminds me of the final phase of the Ivory Coast operation, where we also had the intervention by French helicopters before the assault on the presidential palace.”
Representatives of Gaddafi and opposition envoys have held talks in Moscow over the last few weeks. Orlov said the discussions had not touched on Gaddafi’s departure, the rebels’ main demand.
“Russia is ready to play the role of mediator if other countries are ready, but to do that we must have a ceasefire.”
Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Kevin Liffey