Libyan opposition 'valid interlocutors': Britain

10th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain described the Libyan opposition as "valid interlocutors" on Thursday after France moved to recognise the rebels as the country's rightful representatives.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy made the move as the EU leadership hesitated to recognise the rebels, ahead of a summit to discuss the conflict between loyalists of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi and rebel forces.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "The UK recognises states, not governments. The Interim National Council are valid interlocutors with whom we wish to work closely."

Britain has made it clear that Kadhafi "must go and now", the spokeswoman reiterated.

"We are working closely with international partners to achieve this. We are considering a range of options and look forward to discussing these with President Sarkozy and other partners at tomorrow's European Council."

France's move prompted the rebels to call on other European Union states to follow suit.

However, both Germany and Italy have expressed caution.

Prior to leaving a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, British Foreign Secretary William Hague telephoned Mahmud Jibril of Libya's rebel national council to update him on events.

"Jibril stressed the need for humanitarian aid, particularly in the form of medical supplies and reiterated his request for the West to act to hinder Kadhafi's ability to inflict further violence on the Libyan people, including through a no-fly zone," a Foreign Office spokesman said.

"The Foreign Secretary made clear that planning was under way on a full range of responses, including the possible establishment of a no-fly zone.

"It would need international support, a clear trigger and a legal basis."

Hague also made clear that another diplomatic mission would be sent to the opposition-held city of Benghazi "shortly".

Britain's first attempt at making face-to-face contact with the rebels ended in embarrassment when two diplomats escorted by six special forces soldiers were detained by rebels after they flew into Benghazi by helicopter.

Hague has blamed a "serious misunderstanding" for the botched operation last weekend.

© 2011 AFP

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