US, 30 Other Countries Recognize Libyan Rebels

Posted July 15th, 2011 at 11:15 am (UTC-5)
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More than 30 countries, including the United States, say they are recognizing Libya's rebel Transitional National Council — declaring that the country's leader Moammar Gadhafi no longer has any legitimate authority over the North African nation.

Western and regional powers made the declaration Friday in Istanbul as they met to map strategies to strengthen the Libyan opposition group in its bid to oust Mr. Gadhafi from his 42-year reign.

The international officials said they would deal with the rebel council as the legitimate governing authority in Libya until a new interim authority is installed.

The diplomatic recognition by the international Contact Group on Libya will give the rebels significant new official standing in the world — and important new funding.

Several Western powers had already recognized the rebels. The U.S. and its allies will be able to help fund the rebels with part of the Libyan assets they have seized over the last several months, including more than $30 billion frozen in American banks.

Until now, the U.S. government, while participating in the NATO-led air attacks on Mr. Gadhafi's military operations, has provided financial assistance for refugees and non-lethal aid for the rebels.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who traveled to Istanbul, said the Obama administration will assist in planning for a post-Gadhafi, democratic Libya and help with humanitarian financial assistance to the Libyan people.

Clinton vowed to help the transitional rebel group “sustain its commitment” to creating an independent, unified Libya. Clinton said it “is no longer a question of whether Mr. Gadhafi will leave power, but when.”

Friday's meeting in Istanbul is the fourth international gathering on Libya since March, when the uprising began.

The talks by the Contact Group on Libya came as rebels advanced closer to Mr. Gadhafi's stronghold, the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

On Thursday, rebel forces attacked the government-held coastal town of Regal, a strategic oil hub in the east of the country.

Medical sources in nearby Panjabi said one rebel was killed and at least five wounded in the clashes as opposition fighters reported the first advances beyond the front line in weeks.