Russia: NATO 'one step' from land war in Libya

By the Associated Press | June 5, 2011 | 3:13 AM EDT

In this photo made available by French Army Saturday June 4, 2011, combat helicopters are prepared on the deck of French navy vessel BPC Tonnerre in the Mediterranean sea. British Apache and French attack helicopters struck targets for the first time in NATO's campaign in Libya, hitting Moammar Gadhafi's troops early Saturday near a key coastal oil town, the alliance said. Hours later, at least eight airstrikes were heard in Tripoli. (AP Photo/Arnaud Roine/ECPAD) NO SALES.

SINGAPORE (AP) — Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov says NATO is "one step" from sending troops into Libya in a bid to help rebels remove Moammar Gadhafi from power.

Ivanov said Sunday at an Asian security conference in Singapore that Russia didn't know that a United Nations resolution it supported to protect civilians and shut down Libyan air space would lead to a land operation.

British and French attack helicopters struck for the first time inside Libya on Saturday. NATO had previously relied on attack jets generally flying above 15,000 feet (4,500 meters).

NATO airstrikes have kept the outgunned rebels from being overrun, but the rebels have been unable to mount an effective offensive against Gadhafi's better-equipped forces.