France recognises authority of Libyan rebel council

2011-03-10 13:10

Paris – France today recognised Libya’s rebel-led National Council as the “legitimate representative of the Libyan people”.

The announcement, made by Ali Essaoui, one of the council members, followed a meeting between him and another council member with President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The French president’s office confirmed the statement.

The development piles pressure on embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on the eve of a meeting of European Union heads of state to discuss the worsening conflict in Libya.

France is the first country to recognise the Benghazi-based opposition council as a legitimate governing force.

“On the basis of the recognition, we will open a diplomatic representation, that is to say an embassy in Paris, and an ambassador will be sent from France to Benghazi,” Essaoui announced.

Sarkozy has taken a forceful stance on Libya, becoming the first EU head of state to officially receive members of the council, which represents the rebels fighting Gaddafi’s 42-year rule.

At Friday’s summit in Brussels, the French leader is expected to put forward a plan for the EU’s response to the situation in Libya, including measures to protect civilians caught in the crossfire between government forces and rebels, and to deal with refugees.

France, like Britain, had been pushing for a no-fly zone over Libya, but the two countries have had difficulty building consensus on such a move at the United Nations level.

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