Putin Says NATO Strikes Destroying Libya, Violate Mandate

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Western military efforts to overthrow Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi are destroying the nation’s infrastructure and violate a United Nations mandate to protect civilians.

“Who decided they had the right to execute a man, regardless of who he is?” Putin told reporters in Copenhagen today during a joint briefing with his Danish counterpart Lars Loekke Rasmussen.

After more than two months of fighting between Qaddafi’s forces and rebels seeking to end his 42-year rule, Libya has ground to a military impasse, with the government controlling much of the west and the insurgents holding the east. A NATO airstrike yesterday destroyed part of Qaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in the capital Tripoli. NATO said in an e-mailed statement that it hit a “communications headquarters” in Tripoli, without giving details.

Putin on March 21 likened the UN resolution and resulting offensive to a “medieval call for a crusade.” He criticized the U.S. for regularly resorting to force in pursuit of its interests, in Libya and previously in Iraq and Serbia.

‘Object of Interest’

“Libya’s oil reserves, by the way, are the biggest in Africa and its gas reserves are ranked fourth-biggest in Africa,” Putin said. “This begs the question of whether they are the main object of interest for those operating there today.”

The conflict in Libya has pushed oil prices to the highest since September 2008. Crude has gained more than 30 percent since the war began in mid-February. Libya’s production, which averaged 1.6 million barrels a day last year, shrank to 390,000 barrels a day in March, according to a Bloomberg News survey of producers.

“Internal disagreements arose there, growing into an armed conflict,” Putin said. “But why intervene from the outside into this armed conflict?”

The Middle East is “full of monarchic states” that “generally correspond to the mentality of the population and the practice that’s emerged there,” Putin said.

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