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Russia and US in Libya bombing row

Russia and the US have clashed at the United Nations over Nato's bombing campaign in Libya.

Russia urged the UN Security Council to investigate civilian deaths from the campaign - a move the United States immediately dismissed as "a cheap stunt" to distract from Moscow's failure to condemn the Syrian government's continued killing of protesters.

The sharp exchange reflected the deep division in the council over the Nato campaign which the US, Britain, France, Germany and others hailed for saving hundreds of thousands of Libyan lives, but which Russia, China and the African Union have criticised strongly.

Russia and its supporters say Nato misused the limited security council resolution imposing a no-fly zone and authorising the protection of civilians as a pretext to promote regime change in Libya.

Libya's long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ousted after 42 years, captured and killed in October.

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said a council-mandated investigation was essential "given the fact that initially we were led to believe by Nato leaders there are zero civilian casualties of their bombing campaign".

US ambassador Susan Rice, who stepped to the microphone after Mr Churkin, responded: "Oh, the bombast and bogus claims. Is everyone sufficiently distracted from Syria now and the killing that is happening before our very eyes?

"I think it's not an exaggeration to say that this is something of a cheap stunt to divert attention from other issues and to obscure the success of Nato and its partners - and indeed the security council - in protecting the people of Libya."

France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud, standing beside her, said there were two continuing investigations of Nato's actions in Libya, one by the UN Human Rights Council which is due to report in March, and the second by the International Criminal Court.

"We are not talking about years ... and in the two cases they are absolutely competent to handle the Nato military operations," he said. "So why ask for a third one while we don't have any investigation committee in Syria, when in the last three to four days more than 250 people have been killed?"

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