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NATO's Libya campaign causes civilian deaths, Russia warns

By the CNN Wire Staff
A picture taken on a Libyan government-guided tour on June 18. Libyan authorities said buildings were damaged by NATO airstrikes on Tripoli's residential district of Arada.
A picture taken on a Libyan government-guided tour on June 18. Libyan authorities said buildings were damaged by NATO airstrikes on Tripoli's residential district of Arada.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Russia's foreign minister says NATO is in a difficult situation, killing those it's supposed to protect
  • "Libya has been bombed for more than three months now, and we see no end," Sergei Lavrov says
  • Russia has been critical of France for arming the rebels
  • Rebels claim they are advancing toward Tripoli

Moscow (CNN) -- There can be "no fast solution" to the NATO campaign in Libya, the Russian foreign minister said Thursday, arguing that civilians are dying on both sides of the conflict because of foreign intervention.

NATO members trying to implement the United Nations mandate to protect civilians from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi "are now in a difficult situation," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Russia state television.

"Libya has been bombed for more than three months now, and we see no end of this process," he said.

Western statements that the campaign will continue until Gadhafi no longer poses a threat to Libyans are having a high cost in human lives, he said.

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RELATED TOPICS
  • Libya
  • Libyan Politics
  • Moammar Gadhafi
  • NATO
  • Russia

Russia has been sending humanitarian aid to both sides in Libya. A plane departed for the capital Tripoli on Thursday, a day after one left for the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Rebels claimed advances on Wednesday, saying they captured a town southwest of Tripoli.

Fighting also engulfed Misrata, east of Tripoli, where 14 rebels were killed and 42 others wounded, according to Mohamed Ibrahim, a rebel spokesman in the city. Three civilians also died in rocket attacks launched by Gadhafi's men, Ibrahim said.

CNN could not verify the information.

Just west of Misrata, in Dafniya, 14 rebel fighters were killed and 42 were wounded Wednesday during a firefight with Gadhafi forces, said Ibrahim.

The rebels ran over Al-Qawalish, a town of about 4,000 residents 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of Tripoli, a stronghold for Gadhafi since the start of the uprising in February.

Fighting has erupted in the western mountains in recent weeks as more than four months of battles have failed to yield a decisive victory for either side.

The first United Nations joint mission to reach the devastated mountain region found many people in dire need of food. A World Food Programme statement said markets were not functioning due to limited fuel and cash, and basic services such as electricity and water were lacking in some areas.

The rebels said they were moving northward, closer to the capital on the Mediterranean Sea. They intended to march to the city of Garyan, which sits on the main highway to Tripoli.

Also Wednesday, NATO said its air forces targeted military re-fueling equipment in the Brega area southwest of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

"These precision strikes will limit the ability of pro-Gadhafi forces to threaten Libyan civilians and significantly degrade logistical support for Gadhafi's campaign in eastern Libya," Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, commander of Operation Unified Protector, said in a news release.

France has acknowledged arming the rebels, saying the weapons were for self-defense. However, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said Tuesday the weapons were no longer necessary because the rebels were becoming "more autonomous."

But debate continued over France's decisions.

In a contentious closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting Tuesday, Russia argued that by sending weapons, France had violated the council's resolution that authorized the use of NATO force in Libya.

CNN's Maxim Tkachenko, Kareem Khadder and Kathryn Tancos contributed to this report.

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