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Russia presses Nato on Libya deaths

Russia has urged Nato to investigate civilian deaths in Libya from its bombing campaign, saying the alliance's claim that there were no non-military casualties is untrue.

Russia's United Nations ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he had been asking Nato to give "a definitive report" to the UN Security Council summing up its activities in Libya. But he said "unfortunately" the alliance only provided "piecemeal, rather perfunctory reports... (that) were not very informative".

Russia holds the council presidency this month and Mr Churkin said he would raise the issue of civilian casualties when it discussed Libya on Thursday. The US, British and French missions to the UN did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Nato's seven-month air campaign against Libya was hailed as a triumph by the alliance and its supporters for setting the country on the path to a democratic transition after the ousting and killing of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

But the operation's critics - including Russia, China and the African Union - have argued that Nato misused the limited UN resolution imposing a no-fly zone and authorising the protection of civilians as a pretext to promote regime change.

"Unfortunately, Nato adopted the pure propaganda style, claiming zero civilian casualties in Libya which was completely implausible first of all and secondly not true," Mr Churkin said.

He said it was "cruel and cynical" for people whose houses were destroyed, whose relatives were killed or injured, and who are suffering from stigma because their neighbours suspect they were bombed because they were Gaddafi sympathisers, "to be told that actually nothing of this kind happened".

He said he was sure the United Nations could provide help in thoroughly investigating civilian casualties from Nato aerial bombing if the alliance "is reluctant to do it on their own".

Mr Churkin also criticised UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon for supporting Nato's claim of zero casualties, but he praised him for also saying "there must be no misunderstanding about civilian casualties in Libya".

During Nato's campaign, which ended on October 31, its warplanes flew 26,000 sorties, including more than 9,600 strike missions, destroying more than 1,000 tanks, vehicles, and guns. The relatively quick victory in Libya represented a major boost for the Cold War alliance which is bogged down in a 10-year war in Afghanistan, a 12-year mission in Kosovo, and anti-piracy operation off the Somali coastline.

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