G-8 rift with Russia over Libya campaign

By Angela Charlton

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, May 26 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana are welcomed to a dinner by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, at the G8 summit in Deauville, France, Thursday, May 26, 2011.

Charles Dharapak, Associated Press

DEAUVILLE, France — France says Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must leave power now and Britain calls him an appalling dictator, but Russia says NATO has gone too far in its bombing campaign against Gadhafi's forces.

Escalating violence in Libya worried a gathering of rich world leaders as much or more than their own debts and joblessness, but they could not agree Thursday on how to punish Libya's leader or restore peace, highlighting the difficulty in making sure Arab uprisings have peaceful endings.

In a possible bid to soften Russian resistance to the NATO-led airstrikes, leaders of the Group of Eight nations asked Moscow to act as a "mediator" with Libya, according to President Dmitry Medvedev's spokeswoman. Natalya Timakova did not elaborate on what kind of role that could be, in comments carried on Russian news agencies.

President Barack Obama "is leading that initiative to work with the Russians" on Libya, said Michael McFaul, Russia adviser at the National Security Council. Obama's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, told reporters in Deauville, "Russia has relations, not just in Libya but across most of North Africa. ... We can benefit from those types of consultations and contacts with them."

Medvedev met with Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the Normandy resort of Deauville in a G-8 summit dominated by talk of upheaval in the Arab world. That overshadowed concerns about deficits and joblessness in the Group of Eight nations: the United States, France, Britain, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada.

At talks Friday, G-8 leaders plan to marshal their combined economic might behind the grass-roots democracy movements in Egypt and Tunisia, which overthrew autocrats but also scared off tourists and investors and threaten economic growth.

U.S. and other officials say it's too soon to reach a deal on dollar amounts for assistance to the Arab world.

But France offered Egypt up to $250 million a year in development aid, the prime minister said Thursday. And Britain pledged to expand its aid to the Middle East and North Africa to 110 million pounds, in an apparent effort to pressure G-8 partners into coughing up money, too.

"We're demonstrating that there is a chance for people in North Africa to choose their own future and their own freedom rather than have to put up with appalling dictators like Gadhafi," Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters.

The International Monetary Fund is ready to loan up to $35 billion to oil-importing countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as part of its pledge to help the region meet goals on growth, stability, job creation and improving living standards.

The figure, included in a report on the region prepared for the G8 summit, says that the overall need in terms of external financing by Tunisia, Egypt and other non-oil producing countries in the region could be more than $160 billion over the 2011-2013 period.

Bloodshed in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain is a more immediate concern for the G-8 leaders.

Sarkozy admitted that the international military operation in Libya has posed problems, but he insisted that it was necessary to protect civilians and encourage democratic movements throughout the Arab world.

"I'm not saying the intervention we have made ... hasn't posed problems. It's not an easy decision to commit soldiers," he said. He said Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi "has to leave power."

Sarkozy said "there is a big convergence of views with Russia."

Russia's ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, told The Associated Press that the NATO campaign has gone too far. As a result, he said, Russia feels "burned" and doesn't want to support a U.N. resolution warning Syria about its crackdown on anti-government protesters.

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