Qatar recognises Libyan rebel body as legitimate

2011-03-28 14:45

Doha – Qatar became the first Arab country today to recognise Libya’s rebels as the people’s sole legitimate representative, in a move that may presage similar moves from other Gulf states.

Word of the decision came a day after a senior Libyan rebel official said Qatar had agreed to market crude oil produced from east Libyan fields no longer under the control of leader Muammar Gaddafi.

“This recognition comes from a conviction that the council has become, practically, a representative of Libya and its brotherly people,” the Qatar News Agency reported, quoting a Foreign Ministry official.

France previously recognised the rebel council as the legitimate representative of Libya, the first and so far only Western power to do so.

Explaining Qatar’s decision, the official said the rebel council included representatives of different regions and had acceptance among the Libyan people.

Energy-rich Qatar was the first Arab country to join in patrols in the UN-backed no-fly zone over Libya last Friday.

Doha-based news channel Al Jazeera has covered the revolt and several of its crew were kidnapped earlier this month and another was killed in an ambush.

“By recognising the rebels before anyone else, Qatar is clearly taking the lead and positioning itself at the cutting edge of international opinion and discussion on Libya,” said David Roberts, Deputy Director of the Doha-based Royal United Services Institute.

An Arab diplomat told Reuters that Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, had taken the initiative to strike an oil deal with rebels and recognise their council.

“The decision to back the rebels has to do with internal issues in Qatar, the emir fears power being taken over by his brother,” the diplomatic source familiar with Qatari politics said. The emir’s brother is reported to be in exile in France.

Waiting for an outcome
The head of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a loose economic and political bloc, said the “Libyan system has lost its legitimacy” and backed the move by the tiny Gulf Arab state.

Apart from Qatar, the GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The others Gulf Arab countries mostly are holding their breath, waiting to see the outcome in Libya as Western-led forces pound Gaddafi’s forces and rebels advance towards Tripoli.

The United Arab Emirates offered humanitarian assistance and sent 12 aircraft to take part in patrols.

GCC Secretary General Abdulrahman al-Attiyah, who is Qatari, told Reuters the emirate’s position was “in line with the decisions of the GCC with Qatar’s stance supporting the choices of the Libyan people and their protection from the continuous brutality of the regime”.

Before the crisis, Libya produced about 1.6 million barrels of oil per day, or almost 2% of world output. Most of the oil is in the east where the rebels are stronger, but so far sanctions and the lack of a marketing operation have stopped the rebels selling it abroad.

“We contacted the oil company of Qatar and thankfully they agreed to take all the oil that we wish to export and market this oil for us,” said Ali Tarhouni, a rebel official in charge of economic, financial and oil matters.

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