U.S. has no plans for ground operation in Libya

The United States is not planning to begin a ground operation in Libya, senior Russian senator Mikhail Margelov said after talks with top U.S. diplomats, defense and intelligence officials in Washington.

“As I understand, the Americans are ready to help the people in Benghazi to create some institutions, but it’s clear that Washington cannot imagine its participation in any kind of ground operation [in Libya] even in a nightmare,” Margelov, who heads the foreign relations committee of the Russian parliament’s upper house, told Russian journalists on Friday.

The provision of military assistance to Libyan rebels has also been out of the agenda, he said. The fact that rebels in Benghazi were allowed to export oil and given access to part of Muammar Gaddafi’s foreign assets means that they can buy some weapons from the open arms market, and the rebels themselves do not keep it secret, the senator said.

“The question is not if the rebels have arms or not, but if they have specialists who can use serious weapons. There have been no such specialists [among them] so far,” he added.

At the same time, the U.S. administration “clearly understands” that the situation in Libya “is about to reach – if it has not yet reached – a deadlock,” Margelov said. “But I have not heard any creative decisions from [our] partners during my trip,” he said.

The unrest in the North African country, which began in mid-February, has already claimed thousands of lives, with Gaddafi’s troops maintaining their combat capabilities despite NATO airstrikes against them.

Currently, the main challenge for the international coalition in Libya is Gaddafi and the rebels’ unwillingness to negotiate, Margelov said.

“As long as the conflicting sides are not ready to reach an agreement… it’s unlikely that anyone’s mediation attempts can be effective,” he said, adding that the conflict in Libya may last for several months.

Margelov said he believed that NATO’s involvement in the military operation in Libya was a “wrong decision rather then a right one.”

“As many say here, if they wanted to interfere, they should have done it two weeks earlier, when rebels demonstrated significant success on the battlefield,” he added.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution imposing a no-fly zone over Libya on March 17, paving the way for a military operation against Gaddafi which began two days later. The command of the operation was shifted from a U.S.-led international coalition to NATO in late March.

The unrest in the Middle East has demonstrated that the United States cannot solve all international problems on their own, and “the Americans admit it, although unwillingly,” Margelov said, adding that Moscow and Washington should work together towards the resolution of conflicts in African countries.

Russia’s position towards Libya, which has been announced by President Dmitry Medvedev, remains unchanged, he said.

A permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia has not vetoed the UN resolution authorizing military action against the embattled Libyan leader. Moscow has also frozen its military and technical cooperation with Libya, banned Gaddafi and officials from his immediate circle from entering Russia and frozen their Russian assets.

Margelov also denied speculations about the United States considering an operation in Syria, where an escalating conflict between supporters of President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition has already claimed several hundred lives.

“They do not seek to topple President Bashar al-Assad and are in no wise considering any military options towards Syria,” he said.


WASHINGTON, April 30 (RIA Novosti)

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