Putin suggests NATO has tried to kill Gadhafi (updated)

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April 26, 2011, 7:52 p.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Associated Press

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, right, listens as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin talks during their joint press conference in the Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark, Tuesday, April 26, 2011.
© AP

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday slammed the NATO-led airstrikes in Libya, saying attacks on Moammar Gadhafi's palaces indicate the aim is to kill the Libyan leader. On Monday, NATO bombs hit a building in Gadhafi's official residence in Tripoli, in what the Libyan government maintained was an assassination attempt.

NATO has denied it is trying to kill the Libyan leader.

"There was talk about a no-fly zone. OK. But where's the no-fly zone if every night they're bombing palaces where Gadhafi lives?" Putin said during a visit to Denmark.

"They say, 'No, we don't want to destroy him.' Then why bomb the palaces? Is that how they drive out the mice?"

The commander of NATO's operation, Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, said Tuesday the attack on the presidential complex in Tripoli was aimed at an army command center and denied it was an attempt to kill Gadhafi.

Bouchard said the complex is "a military compound in which there are various houses and residences ... and various military command and control nodes throughout."

Putin accused the nations taking part in the NATO-led operation of straying from the U.N. mandate to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians.

"Now several officials are saying, 'Yes, we're trying to destroy Gadhafi.' But who allowed you to do this? What, there was a trial? Who gave themselves the right to sentence someone to death, regardless what kind of person he is?" Putin said.

He didn't specify which officials or countries he was referring to.

Russia abstained in the U.N. Security Council vote last month authorizing the military operation in Libya. At the time Putin compared the U.N. resolution to "a call for a crusade."

When Putin was asked by a Danish reporter Tuesday what he meant by that remark, he spent three-minutes questioning the goals of the intervention and urging participating nations to read the U.N. resolution again.

"Is there a summons there for everyone to come and do whatever they want in Libya?" he said. "When the so-called civilized world community directs all its powers against a small country, destroying infrastructure created over generations, I don't know whether it's good or not. But I don't like it."

The Russian prime minister said that Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa.

"It begs the question: is this the real source of interest of those who are brandishing their weapons now?" Putin said.

He was speaking at a joint news conference with Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, whose country is part of the operation.

Denmark's Air Force on Tuesday said its F-16 fighter jets so far have dropped 285 bombs on 127 missions over Libya.
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