Obama thanks Medvedev for Libya statements

Russia abstained when Libya resolution came before the UNSC last week.

Updated: Mar 25, 2011, 13:36 PM IST

Washington: US President Barack Obama on Thursday thanked Russia`s President Dmitry Medvedev for "positive statements" about the mandate of a UN resolution implementing a no-fly zone over Libya.

But Washington did not dwell on an aspect of a call between the two leaders on Thursday reported by Russia in which Medvedev apparently called on Obama to avoid civilian casualties in air operations against Muammar Gaddafi`s forces.

Russia abstained when the resolution came before the UN Security Council last week -- a move that allowed the measure to pass, but said it regretted the armed intervention in Libya.

But Medvedev, who has forged a close relationship with Obama, also later rejected a complaint by powerful Prime Minister, and possible future election rival, Vladimir Putin that the operation against Libya was a "crusade”.

"The two Presidents discussed developments in the Middle East at length, with a particular focus on Libya," the White House statement said in a statement about Thursday`s telephone call.

The White House said Obama thanked Medvedev for Russia`s support for implementing UN Resolution 1973 and "subsequent positive statements that President Medvedev has made regarding the resolution`s mandate”.

Putin appeared to be tapping into opposition within Russia to the coalition action against Muammar Gaddafi by his vigorous criticism of the UN resolution.

On Monday, Putin slammed the UN resolution as resembling a "medieval call to crusade”, in one of his most virulent diatribes against the West in years.

But Medvedev rebuked the Prime Minister for using such fiery language, in a rare open break between the two men.

"Under no circumstances is it acceptable to use expressions which essentially lead to a clash of civilizations. Such as `crusade` and so on," Medvedev said.

In a sign of the delicate politics playing out worldwide over the Libyan intervention, Medvedev, according to a Russian account of the call, urged Obama to avoid civilian casualties.

The Kremlin said Medvedev called Obama to discuss the Libyan crisis amid Russian worries that the air offensive could soon spill over into a ground campaign.

"The Russian President especially noted the need to avoid casualties among the civilian population and the priority of achieving goals set by UN Security Council Resolution 1973," a Kremlin statement said.

The US readout did not mention the question of civilian casualties but commanders of the coalition operation have said they are doing their utmost to avoid innocent bloodshed in Libya.

The White House statement also announced that Obama and Medvedev would have the latest of their frequent meetings on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Deauville, France in May.

It said the call also touched on progress in Russia`s bid to join the World Trade Organization and the idea of a US missile defence shield in Europe, which has been a source of contention between Moscow and Washington.

Bureau Report