Russia condemns Libya's 'unacceptable' use of force

MOSCOW, Feb 27, 2011 (AFP) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his Libyan counterpart Musa Kusa by telephone that Moscow condemns as unacceptable Libya's use of force against civilians, the foreign ministry said Sunday.

In the telephone talks on Saturday "Sergei Lavrov underlined that the use of armed force by the Libyan authorities against the civilian population is unacceptable," the ministry said.

"Russia, and the whole international community, strongly condemns such actions," Lavrov was quoted as saying in a statement.

Lavrov told Kusa that Libya must respect human rights and ensure the security of both Libyan and foreign citizens.

His remarks were the strongest comments yet from Russia against the actions of Moamer Kadhafi's regime as it struggles to stay in power.

Russia was initially slow to echo Western condemnation of Kadhafi but on Saturday it joined other UN Security Council members in ordering an arms embargo against Libya and a travel and assets ban on Kadhafi's regime.

The foreign ministry statement said that Kusa had promised Lavrov of "absolute openness" from Tripoli. But Moscow warned that deeds now had to follow words in fulfilling Libya's rights obligations.

"Above all, this requires an immediate halt to repression against the population and respect of its fundamental rights and freedoms," it said.

Like Western countries, Russia had cultivated Kadhafi's regime in the hope of benefiting from the exploitation of the vast energy resources in the North African country.

It is now in the process of evacuating hundreds of expatriate Russian workers trapped by the violence, many of whom were working on projects for state gas giant Gazprom and state railways firm RZhD.

Moscow saw itself as a major player in the Arab world under the Soviet Union and in recent years has worked hard to restore influence that waned after the collapse of the USSR.

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