Russia Calls for Immediate Cease-Fire in Libya
VOA News March 22, 2011
Russia's defense minister is criticizing U.S.-led air strikes in Libya, saying some of the strikes have killed innocent civilians.
Anatoly Serdyukov spoke Tuesday in Moscow following a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Serdyukov told reporters the surest way to protect civilians would be an immediate cease-fire and dialogue between the Libyan government and rebel forces.
For his part, Gates rejected the claims, saying the casualty figures coming from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's government are, in his words, "outright lies."
Russia abstained from the United Nations Security Council vote that authorized the air strikes against Libya to go forward.
The United States is expected to hand off the lead role in the air strikes, but Gates said no decision has been made about who will take the lead.
Gates also expressed concern about the instability in Yemen, saying the Yemeni branch of al-Qaida is perhaps the most dangerous of all the terror network's cells.
Later, the U.S. defense secretary is scheduled to meet with President Dmitry Medvedev.
Some of Gates' discussions were expected to focus on military and technical cooperation with Russia, including U.S. plans for a missile defense in Europe.
Russia has opposed the plan, saying it jeopardizes its own security. Washington says the system of radar stations and missile interceptors would guard Europe against potential attacks from Iran, and is working to gain Moscow's support.
On Monday, Gates called for further cooperation between the United States and Russia, especially in combating terrorism. He praised Russia's support in the war in Afghanistan and urged the country to take part in other international missions.
Gates is making his final visit to Russia as secretary of defense. The former CIA director, who spent years gathering intelligence on the Soviet Union during the Cold War, plans to step down from his post later this year.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.
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