Libya rebel leader held talks with French president
A senior leader of Libya's rebels, Mahmud Jibril, on Saturday discussed the conflict in the north African country and prospects for a political transition with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Sarkozy and Prime Minister Francois Fillon welcomed Jibril on the steps of the Elysee Palace, the president's official residence. No statement was released after the talks.
The French leader last met with Jibril, the prime minister of the rebels' National Transitional Council, on March 10.
France is one of the few outside powers along with Britain, Italy, Qatar and Gambia, to have formally recognised the Council as the Libyan people's legitimate representative.
France has been taking part along with other international forces under NATO command in airstrikes on Colonel Moamer Kadhafi's strategic sites to protect the civilian population, following a vote by the UN Security Council.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called on forces to keep up the military pressure on Kadhafi in an interview published Saturday by Arabic daily Al-Hayat.
Jibril whose forces are in dire need of financial support and weapons held his first talks at the White House on Friday, meeting with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.
But White House spokesman Jay Carney made clear that US recognition would not be immediately forthcoming.
Sarkozy has called for a gathering of international "friends of Libya" to discuss its future.
Saturday's meeting was also to further the idea of an enlarged contact group on Libya, which France wants to include Russia and others.
"The aim of this gathering is to give strong political support and to collect funds to help the NTC, " French officials have said.
"We must see what we can do at the national level -- something that is being analysed -- and see how Kadhafi funds that have been frozen can be used," they added.
During a meeting in Rome last week the contact group decided to set up a special fund to help the rebels. Frozen funds held by Kadhafi, his family and close aides are estimated at 60 billion dollars worldwide, including about 30 billion in the United States.
Sources close to the US administration have said Washington could unblock more than 150 million dollars for the rebels shortly.
Juppe said last week that France would evaluate its own contribution after Washington's announcement.
© 2011 AFP