Five big emerging powers expressed misgivings about NATO-led air strikes in Libya and urged an end to the fighting which, together with turbulence elsewhere in the Arab world, has added to global uncertainty.
The United Nations-authorised air campaign against the forces of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was one of the issues on the table when the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) met in southern China for a one-day summit.
While expressing their concern about Libya, the strength of the leaders’ public comments varied, suggesting that they did not emerge from their summit with a firmly united stance, Reuters reports.
“We are deeply concerned with the turbulence in the Middle East, the North African and West African regions,” the leaders said in a joint statement issued after the summit in the resort of Sanya.
“We share the principle that the use of force should be avoided,” they added while urging a peaceful settlement of the Libyan conflict and praising the mediation efforts of the African Union.
“We are of the view that all the parties should resolve their differences through peaceful means and dialogue,” they said.
“They all condemned the bombings,” said a government source who participated in the meeting of the BRICS leaders.
But the public comments from the leaders after the summit suggested differences on how to handle the conflict, which has raised the possibility of a divided and war-torn Libya, and intensified recent rises in oil prices.
Western warplanes began hitting Libyan government forces last month, but long-time leader Gaddafi has refused to yield to calls from rebel groups and other governments to step down. His forces remain locked in combat with the rebels.
China, Russia, India and Brazil all abstained on March 17 from a United Nations Security Council vote that authorised the air strikes. China and Russia could have used their veto power as permanent members of the Council to veto the authorisation.
South Africa, on the other hand, voted in favour of the Security Council resolution for the strikes. But during a visit to Tripoli on Sunday, South African President Jacob Zuma called for NATO to stop air strikes.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev suggested that Western governments backing the air campaign in Libya had gone beyond the U.N. mandate.
“We agreed to … close the air zone (over Libya) and prevent the basis for the intensification of the conflict … What did we get as a result? We got a military operation,” he told reporters travelling with him. “But the resolution does not say anything about it,” said.
“The resolution is totally correct, but (countries) should execute resolutions without trying to exceed their mandate.”
Other leaders were more muted in their criticism.
“The developments in west Asia and north Africa, and the aftermath of the huge tragedy that befell Japan, have introduced fresh uncertainties in the global recovery process,” said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Chinese President Hu Jintao did not mention Libya in his comments to reporters.