Russia accuses Libya of harboring Syrian rebels, training them to attack Damascus

Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, said that Libya’s assistance to fighters opposed to President Bashar al-Assad will exacerbate the security situation in Syria. (Reuters)

As Libya’s prime minister said the world should help the Syrian people to obtain their freedom, Russia on Wednesday accused Tripoli of helping to train Syrian rebels to carry out attacks on Damascus government targets.

Russia’s U.N. envoy on Wednesday accused Libya of helping to train Syrian rebels to carry out attacks on Damascus government targets.

Allegations by Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin over the rebels and NATO’s attacks in Libya last year set off a diplomatic furor at the U.N. Security Council with Libya’s interim Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib.

“We have received information that there is in Libya, with the support of the authorities, a special training center for Syrian revolutionaries and these people are sent to Syria to attack the legal government,” Churkin said.

“This is completely unacceptable according to all legal standards. This activity is undermining stability in the Middle East,” he told a Security Council meeting on Libya.

“We think that Al-Qaeda is in Syria. And now there is the question ̶ is the export of revolution being turned into export of terrorism?” Churkin added.

Russia is Syria’s closest ally and a fierce critic of Western action in support of the rebel fighters who brought down Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi. Russia and China have vetoed two council resolutions on Syria.

Meanwhile, Libya’s Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib said the situation in Syria “is definitely analogous” to last year’s uprising in Libya, which received help from NATO to help protect civilians.

But he said Libya can’t tell the international community what to do to help Syria.

El-Keib said Libya was supporting and financially helping Syria’s opposition and he called on the international community to investigate what it can do to help.

Russia demands apology

The Russian envoy made a new demand that NATO apologize for the deaths of civilians in attacks in Libya last year and pay compensation. China backed calls for a further investigation into the deaths.

The comments, which overshadowed a debate on renewing the U.N. mission in Libya, brought a stern rebuke from U.S. ambassador Susan Rice and the Libyan prime minister.

“It is quite rich for the Russians, one of Syria’s top two arms suppliers, to be accusing Libya or any other country of wrongly supplying arms ̶ if in fact there is any truth in that ̶ to the opposition,” Rice told reporters after the meeting.

Russia needs to “start at home, examining their whole responsibility” in the international dispute over the Syria crisis, she added.

Kib said the Libyan government had investigated all civilian deaths with NATO’s cooperation.

“This matter which concerns the blood of Libyans should not be a matter of political propaganda for one country against any other country,” he told the council.

“I hope that the reason for raising this matter will not be to impede or prevent the international community from interfering in the situation of other states where their people are being massacred,” Kib said.

The Libyan prime minister did not discuss the allegations about the training camps.

Libya announced on February 29 that it would provide $100 million in humanitarian aid to support Syria’s battle for “freedom” against the “dictatorial regime” of President Bashar al-Assad.

Libya government spokesman Mohammed al-Harizi said the opposition Syrian National Council opened a bank account for the funds which will be used to “provide financial support for humanitarian purposes, equivalent to $100 million.”

He said Libya backs Syrians in their twin “goals of freedom and getting rid of the dictatorial regime.”

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