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Libya war looms over US-Russia defence talks

22 march 2011, 10:44
Defence Secretary Robert Gates hopes to bolster US military ties with Russia in talks on Tuesday but the Western air assault on Libya threatened to dominate his visit, AFP reports.

While Gates praised Russia for abstaining on the UN vote that paved the way for a no-fly zone in Libya, Putin on Monday condemned the UN resolution as a "medieval call to crusade."

Medvedev, who was due to meet Gates in Moscow later on Tuesday, promptly rebuked Putin's comment as unacceptable and defended the UN resolution calling for protecting civilians from Kadhafi's forces.

Gates spent the first leg of his two-day tour in Saint Petersburg, where he lauded progress in US-Russia ties and cited Moscow's help in allowing NATO to use Russian territory to move troops and supplies to Afghanistan.

The Pentagon chief is due to meet his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov, in Moscow before sitting down with Medvedev. There was no scheduled meeting, however, with Putin.

In a speech Monday to mid-level naval officers in Saint Petersburg, Gates touted "deepening" relations with the Russian armed forces, but acknowledged differences over US plans for a missile defence shield in Europe.

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