Moscow refuses to recognise Libya rebels

A blow to the Libyan rebels

MOSCOW - Russia on Monday lashed the West for recognising the National Transitional Council as Libya's official authority but said it would still view the rebels as a formal negotiating partner.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week's recognition by Western and regional powers of the opposition government at the expense of Moamer Gathafi's regime was tantamount to picking sides in a civil war.
"We do not share this position for one simple reason -- this again means that those who declare this recognition stand wholly on the side of one political power in a civil war," Lavrov said.
"This again means that those who support this decision support a policy of isolation -- in this case, isolation of the forces represented in Tripoli," Russia's top diplomat said.
"We traditionally reject isolation as a method for resolving political problems in any conflict."
Lavrov also dismissed Western media speculation that Russia is now ready to offer political asylum to Gathafi and his closest family.
"This question has been asked many time before, and the answer is no," Lavrov said.
Russia abstained from a vote on a UN Security Council resolution in March that opened the way for air strikes on Gathafi regime targets in Libya and has since criticized the scale and intent of the NATO-led Western campaign.
A Kremlin envoy, Mikhail Margelov, has since met with top Libyan rebels in their stronghold city of Benghazi and conducted negotiations in Tripoli over the terms of Gathafi's potential exile.
Those mediation efforts have thus far failed.
But Russia has pointed to the fact that it retains formal ties with Tripoli, despite insisting on Gathafi's exile, and last week received vital support in its mediation efforts from US President Barack Obama.
Margelov has said that Gathafi was willing to quit on acceptable terms but would level his capital if it was ever taken by the rebels -- both claims later bitterly denied by the veteran leader's aides.
Lavrov said Russia still believed that only direct talks -- something repeatedly ruled out by the rebels -- could produce a ceasefire and acceptable terms for a new transitional government.
"We maintain contacts with both Tripoli and Benghazi, urging them to demonstrate a constructive position, demonstrate responsibility for their people and their country, and sit down at the negotiating table," said Lavrov.
Russia said it wanted the two sides to agree on "transition structure" that could potentially draft a new Libyan constitution and pave the way for democratic elections.