US, UK Recognize Rebels as Libya’s “Legitimate Authority”
At a meeting in Turkey, the US, the UK and other countries who are members of the Libya Contact Group have announced that they are recognizing the rebel forces as the “legitimate authority of Libya.” The Transitional National Council (TNC) represents the rebel forces, who control the eastern part of Libya and some areas in the West. This recognition is a “serious upgrade of the diplomatic status of the Libyan opposition in the world,” says the Associated Press via the Guardian.
Earlier this week, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe had said that envoys from Gaddafi had been in contact with NATO officers who were informed that Gaddafi is ready to quit, but US officials remain unconvinced.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan chairs the Libyan Contact Group. Reporting from Istanbul, Al Jazeera‘s Barnaby Phillips said that the main focus of the meeting is “to get rid of Gaddafi as quickly as possible, and to look at what will come next.” A senior US official also commented that “Countries are starting to look past Gaddafi. He’s going to go.” The UN Secretary-General’s special envoy to Libya, Abdul Elah Al-Khatib, could be charged with presenting a “political package” to Gaddafi, with terms to leave power and a ceasefire to end the fighting in what has become a civil war.
The meeting of the group is the fourth since March and could lead to increased political and economic support for the Libyan rebel government. So far, Kuwait and Qatar have transferred some $100 milion to the TNC and other countries have also pledged support, but TNC officers are saying they will need more cash soon in order to “assume the full obligations of government.”
After the meeting, Italy said that it has ended its 30 billion euro investment in Libya, Prime Minister al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.
The New York Times has reported that, according to Human Rights Watch, Libyan rebels are suspected of abuses and “apparent reprisals” against Gaddafi loyalists. Many businesses and two medical centers in four towns the rebels seized last month have been looted, while residents loyal to Gaddafi have been beaten and their homes set on fire.
The conflict in Libya has become a protracted stalemate, with Muammar el-Gaddafi remaining “entrenched” in Tripoli after 6000 NATO airstrikes, says the BBC. International sanctions have been imposed on Libya and arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son and others issued.
In Tripoli, the BBC reports that a severe shortage of gas has led to lines as long as a mile in the city. According to NPR, Libyans in Tripoli are slowly starting to express dissent. Tripoli residents interviewed spoke of anti-Gaddafi rebel groups who are waiting for support from rebel forces advancing towards the capital. As one shopkeeper said, “most people in his neighborhood, Fashloom, have opposed the government, not just for the past five months, but for the past 20 years.”
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Photo of the Libya Contact Group meeting in Istanbul by Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών