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Putin says 'dumbfounded' over NATO operation in Libya

RIA Novosti

18:53 27/04/2011 STOCKHOLM, April 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin continued on Wednesday to criticize NATO military operations in Libya, saying that he was "dumb-founded" over how easy decisions are made to use force against countries.

When asked by a Swedish journalist, Putin, who is currently on a visit in Stockholm, said "this happens despite human rights and humanity concerns which the civilized world is believed to advocate," apparently referring to reports about NATO planes bombing civilian objects in Libya.

"Don't you think that there is a serious controversy between words and practice of international relations?" he said, adding that this "misbalance" should be eliminated.

Russia, one of the UN Security Council's permanent members, did not use its veto right to block a UN resolution imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, preferring to abstain.

On Tuesday, speaking during a news conference in Copenhagen, Putin made several strong statements criticizing NATO's operation in Libya, saying that the North African state was being illegally destroyed by "so-called civilized society."

The premier said the Western coalition had gone beyond the UN mandate when it dropped guided bombs on embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's compound in central Tripoli last week.

"What kind of no-fly zone is this if they are striking palaces every night?" Putin said. "What do they need to bomb palaces for? To drive out the mice?" He also suggested that Libya's waste oil resources could be "the main object of interest to those operating there."

This is not the first time Putin has publicly criticized the NATO-led intervention in Libya. In late March, he made international headlines by likening the UN Security Council resolution to enforce a no-fly zone in the country to a "call to a medieval crusade."

Comparing the situation in Libya to what happened in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Putin told the journalist a story about his friend, a KGB officer serving there at that time. When Putin asked him about his success, the officer told him that he was measuring it by the number of airstrikes that he did not approve, explaining that Soviet airstrikes were killing civilians along with rebels.

NATO deputy spokeswoman Carmen Romero said on Wednesday the alliance was not commenting on Putin's remarks, adding that the UN resolution stipulates the use of "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians from forces loyal to Gaddafi and that NATO was implementing this mandate.

The unrest in the North African country, which began in mid-February, has already claimed thousands of lives, with Gaddafi troops maintaining their combat capabilities despite massive NATO airstrikes against them.

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