Medvedev Holds Middle East Talks With Biden, Berlusconi

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev held talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on issues including the Middle East during a meeting today in Rome.

The three leaders discussed the situation in Libya and ties with Egypt’s new leaders, Medvedev’s spokeswoman, Natalia Timakova, told reporters. They also talked about Russia’s bid to join the World Trade Organization and the dispute between Russia and the U.S. on missile defense, she said.

“I hope we will manage in trilateral format with the participation of Vice President Biden to talk about the Mideast situation and the situation around Libya,” Medvedev said before the talks. “Yet this is not the only topic. There is a whole range of issues where we should exchange information.”

Russia has stepped up efforts for a Libyan settlement since last week’s Group of Eight summit in France, where Medvedev for the first time publicly backed calls for long-time leader Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster amid a revolt that began Feb. 17. Medvedev is sending Mikhail Margelov, his envoy for Libya, to the port city of Benghazi for talks with rebel leaders.

Any solution must be “acceptable to all Libyans,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday during an interview in Moscow. Russia, which abstained from the March 18 vote by the United Nations Security Council that authorized the use of force to protect civilians from Qaddafi’s forces, opposes Security Council involvement in Syria, he said.

“We would greatly like to assist in solving this problem, not by military means but by means of talks so that the fate of the state is decided by the Libyan people,” Medvedev said earlier today, after bilateral talks with Berlusconi.

NATO Campaign

The U.S. and partners including France and the U.K. launched the first attacks under the UN resolution on March 19. NATO took command March 31 and yesterday extended its mission for 90 days in what Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said was “a clear message” that “we are determined to continue our operation to protect the people of Libya.”

The air raids killed 718 civilians and wounded 4,067 from March 19 to May 26, Agence France Presse reported, citing a spokesman for Libya’s government.

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