Russia says NATO one step from land war in Libya

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov on Sunday said he was concerned about NATO’s use of attack helicopters in Libya, warning the alliance was one step away from a land war, DPA reported.

NATO on Saturday for the first time deployed ground attack helicopters to strike military equipment and forces of Moamer Gaddafi’s regime.

“Using attack helicopters on land targets is, in my view, the last step before a land operation,” Ivanov said at an Asian security summit in Singapore.

NATO’s airstrikes began at the end of March after the UN Security Council passed a resolution ordering the protection of civilians in the conflict between rebels and Gaddafi’s troops.

Russia abstained from voting on the resolution and opposes NATO’s military intervention.

Ivanov said Russia didn’t know the resolution to protect civilians and shut down Libyan airspace would lead to bombing, the use of attack helicopters and possibly land operations.

“NATO’s actions, which have been justified by arbitrary interpretation of the UN Security Council resolutions, can only be characterized as taking side of one of the confronting parties in the civil war,” he said.

Ivanov reiterated Russia’s position that the Libyan conflict should be settled “by peaceful means and through dialogue, in which the UN and regional organizations have a role to play.”

“We have to be very careful in humanitarian interventions,” said Ivanov, adding he was not sure if the international community should intervene “every time there is a civil war, a clan war or a tribal war.”

He said it was worrying that a lot of weapons, including Soviet-made shoulder-launched missiles, disappeared when military depots of Gaddafi were stormed.

“Where they are now, and where they will be used, against which civilian plane…that’s an open question,” Ivanov told delegates in the closing session of the Shangri-La Dialogue.

The annual forum, organized by the London-based Institute for Strategic Studies, brings together defence chiefs and security policymakers from 27 nations.

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