UNITED NATIONS, March 21: Differences have emerged among the permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Russia and China on one side and France, Britain and the US on the other – over the objective of the UN resolution on Libya and the means to achieve it.

The intense bombardment of Libya has angered Russia and China which say that it is undermining the “coalition of the willing”. They did not use their veto power to kill the resolution, like the US did just last month on the Israeli settlement issue. Instead they chose to abstain thus allowing the resolution to be adopted. “Perhaps they regret it now, but it's too late,” said one UN official who didn't want to be identified.

Others who were abstained included Brazil, Germany and India who are non-permanent members without veto powers.

The Russian foreign ministry said: “Moscow notes with regret this armed action, taken in conjunction with the hastily passed UN Security Council resolution 197.”

It called for an immediate end to the “bloodshed” in Libya to allow for dialogue.

The Chinese foreign ministry said Beijing “as always does not agree with the use of force in international relations”.

The ministry's spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China believed that all countries should respect Libya's “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity”.

“We hope stability can be restored in Libya as soon as possible so as to avoid more civilian casualties caused by the escalation of military conflict,” she said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in a statement went further and spoke out against the UN resolution allowing military action on Libya as a “mediaeval call to crusade”. He hit out at Washington for its readiness to resort to force.

In one of the most outspoken criticism of the West in years, the Russian leader said there was no 'logic' or 'conscience' to the military action against Libya.

”The resolution by the Security Council, of course, is defective and flawed,” Putin told workers on a visit to a missile factory in the central Russian region of Udmurtia. “To me, it resembles some sort of mediaeval call to crusade when someone would appeal to someone to go to a certain place and free something there,” he said in televised remarks, referring to the expeditions by armies in the Middle Ages to end Muslim rule over the holy land.

AFP adds: Meanwhile, Indian Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna called on Monday for an end to air strikes in Libya, saying they would lead to more harm to “innocent civilians, foreign nationals and diplomatic missions.” “We regret the air strikes that are taking place,” Krishna told reporters in the Indian capital, New Delhi, according to the Press Trust of India news agency and other media reports.

“India calls upon all parties to abjure violence and the use of threat and force to resolve the differences. I think the need of the hour is cessation of armed conflict,” he added.

He added that “air strikes will lead to harm to innocent civilians, foreign nationals and diplomatic missions and their personnel who are still in Libya”.

The comments were firmer that a statement issued by the foreign ministry on Sunday which said that India “views with grave concern” the violence in Libya and “regrets the air strikes.” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said he wants the people of North Africa and the Middle East to take their own decisions “free of outside interference”.

Meanwhile, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei used his new year's message on Monday in Tehran to slam the military intervention in Libya, back regional revolts, and accuse US President Barack Obama of lying.

“The US and western (allies) claim they want to defend the people by carrying out military operations or by entering Libya... You did not come to defend the people, you've come after Libyan oil,” Khamenei said in a live broadcast from the holy city of Mashhad.“Iran utterly condemns the behaviour of the Libyan government against its people, the killings and pressure on people, and the bombing of its cities...

But it (also) condemns the military action in Libya,” he said.