World News

Putin: Libya coalition has no right to kill Gaddafi

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sharply criticized the Western coalition attacking Libya Tuesday, saying it had neither a right nor a mandate to kill Muammar Gaddafi.

Putin said the coalition had gone beyond the bounds of a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing intervention to protect civilians and suggested Gaddafi’s actions did not justify foreign interference, let alone attempts to remove him.

“They said they didn’t want to kill Gaddafi. Now some officials say, yes, we are trying to kill Gaddafi,” Putin said on a visit to Denmark. “Who permitted this, was there any trial? Who took on the right to execute this man, no matter who he is?”

Putin was speaking as Britain and the United States discussed stepping up military pressure on Gaddafi, who has survived more than a month of NATO air strikes.

“The country’s whole infrastructure is being destroyed, and in essence one of the warring sides is attacking under the cover of aircraft,” Putin said at a news conference after talks with his Danish counterpart Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

“When the entire so-called civilized community falls upon a small country with all its might, destroys infrastructure created over generations -- I don’t know, is that good or not?” Putin said. “I don’t like it.”

Shortly after Putin spoke, Libyan state news agency Jana said Libya had urged Russia to call an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss “Western aggression.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko said early Wednesday that Medvedev had not given any instructions to call a Security Council meeting, Russian news agencies reported.

Putin called Gaddafi’s Libya “crooked” but said that did not justify intervention.

“Look at a map of this region of the world ... What, is it full of Danish-style democracies? No, there are monarchical states all around. This overall answers to the mentality of the population and the practices that developed there,” he said.

“Is there a lack of crooked regimes in the world? What, are we going to intervene in internal conflicts everywhere? Look at Africa, what’s been happening in Somalia for many years. ... Are we going to bomb everywhere and conduct missile strikes?”

Putin has often criticized U.S. and NATO intervention in the affairs of sovereign states.

He said the resolution authorizing intervention in Libya was “a call for everyone to come and do whatever they want.”

“Why strike palaces? What, are they exterminating mice this way?” Putin said. “Surely people are being killed in these strikes -- Gaddafi is not there, he slipped away long ago, but peaceful civilians are dying.”

Permanent U.N. Security Council member Russia abstained from the U.N. vote last month. Putin likened it at the time to “a medieval call for crusades,” a remark that suggested he might have ordered a veto had he still been president.

Russia’s president is head of state and sets foreign policy, while the prime minister manages the economy. Putin steered his protege Medvedev into the presidency in 2008 but has said he may try to return to the Kremlin himself in a 2012 vote.

The commander of the NATO operation, Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, said the attack on a building in Gaddafi’s compound Monday was on communications facilities and the Libyan leader was not there at the time.

“This is a military compound, in which there are various houses and residences, but also technical command and control nodes throughout,” Bouchard told reporters in Brussels.

“He was not in the room but the point is command and control, not individuals,” he said.

The upheaval in Libya has disrupted billions of dollars worth of Russian arms, energy and infrastructure deals there but also driven up world prices for Russia’s energy riches.

In Denmark, which is to begin receiving Russian natural gas this year, Putin said the nuclear accident in Japan and unrest in the Arab world would boost global demand for oil and gas.

“We are ready to increase supplies to the Asia-Pacific region and to Europe,” he said.

Writing by Steve Gutterman and Alissa de Carbonnel; editing by Andrew Roche