U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has assured officials in Moscow that the international coalition enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya is “going to great lengths” to avoid killing civilians.
Gates traveled to Russia for talks on missile-defense issues — part of a two-day trip that has been upstaged by events in Libya.
He was scheduled to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev today but had no plans to meet with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
On March 21, Putin condemned the UN Security Council resolution that authorizes the no-fly zone and the use of military force against Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi’s forces in order to prevent the killing of civilians.
Putin called the resolution “a medieval call for a crusade.”
Medvedev has denounced Putin’s comments as “unacceptable.”
Gates, who is expected to retire this summer, spent the first leg of his two-day tour in St. Petersburg, where he lauded progress in U.S.-Russia ties and cited Moscow’s help in allowing NATO to use Russian territory to move troops and supplies to Afghanistan.
In a speech on March 21 to mid-level naval officers in St. Petersburg, Gates praised “deepening” relations with the Russian armed forces, but acknowledged differences over U.S. plans for a missile defense shield in Europe.
compiled from agency reports