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NATO war in Libya violates U.N. mandate, Russia says

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday Western attempts to topple Muammar Gaddafi were a violation of a U.N. resolution on Libya, which only authorized the use of force to protect civilians.

“The U.N. Security Council never aimed to topple the Libyan regime,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. “All those who are currently using the U.N. resolution for that aim are violating the U.N. mandate.”

Given such a Western position, the Libyan opposition was refusing to negotiate a ceasefire with the regime in Tripoli, Lavrov said. “It is crucial to establish a ceasefire,” he said on a visit to Belgrade.

Britain and France have urged other NATO allies to provide more attack aircraft capable of hitting Gaddafi’s ground forces after Washington reduced its role in the operation and passed command to NATO on March 31.

Lavrov said that the opposition in Yemen was apparently also hoping for Western help, similar to the NATO operation in Libya, to topple President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

“Probably using the same logic, the opposition in Yemen is refusing the possibility to sit at the negotiating table, hoping for that kind of help from abroad,” Lavrov said.

The United Nations Security Council was due to meet later on Tuesday to discuss Yemen, where Western and Gulf Arab allies fear a prolonged standoff could spark clashes between rival military units in the capital Sanaa and elsewhere.

Lavrov said the opposition’s hope that it will receive Western aid was “a very dangerous logic which can cause a chain reaction.”

“All those responsible, particularly members of the UN Security Council, must not opt for conflicts but for dialogue.”

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Adam Tanner