* Russia tells Libya contact group to respect U.N. authority
* China reiterates calls for immediate ceasefire
(Adds meeting with Medvedev, detail)
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW, May 6 Russia on Friday criticised a
Western-led grouping that has pledged aid to the Libyan rebels
fighting Muammar Gaddafi's forces, warning that it must not seek
to usurp the authority of the U.N. Security Council.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese
counterpart Yang Jiechi said the two nations -- both permanent
Security Council members with veto power -- would work together
to seek stability in the Middle East and North African region.
Russia and China, which abstained in the Security Council
vote that authorised military intervention in Libya to protect
civilians, have criticised the Western-led coalition conducting
air strikes. Russia has accused it of overstepping its mandate.
After talks with Yang in Moscow, Lavrov criticised the Libya
contact group of Western and Arab countries that agreed on
Thursday to provide Libya's eastern rebels, based in Benghazi,
with millions of dollars in non-military aid to help them keep
services and the economy running. [nLDE74500B]
The contact group includes the other three veto-wielding
permanent U.N. Security Council members -- the United States,
Britain and France -- as well as Italy, Qatar, Kuwait and
The contact group "is increasing its efforts to take on the
leading role in determining the policy of the international
community in relation to Libya," Lavrov told a news conference.
"We proceed from the position that the informal contact
group comprises responsible states and that all of them ratified
the U.N. Charter and are required to respect the authority of
the Security Council."
Lavrov said the conflict in Libya was a civil war and the
international community should focus on stopping the fighting
and not "taking sides".
Russia and China "will coordinate our actions to foster the
swiftest possible stabilisation" in the Arab world, he said.
Yang, who also met President Dmitry Medvedev, said the
"sovereignty, independence and unity of Libya must be respected.
People of all countries of the world ... have the right to
choose their path of development."
He reiterated calls for an immediate ceasefire in order to
prevent "a great humanitarian catastrophe in Libya".
Lavrov made clear that if asked, Moscow would not approve an
international ground operation in Libya.
The Security Council resolution that authorised military
intervention in Libya "directly and unequivocally rules out"
ground operations, Lavrov said, when asked whether the council
might authorise such intervention.
"The position of the Russian Federation remains absolutely
unchanged," he said.
(Reporting by Thomas Grove, writing by Steve Gutterman, editing
by Janet Lawrence)