Germany to open liaison office in Benghazi: ministry

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Germany will open a liaison office in Benghazi in east Libya, the stronghold of rebels fighting to unseat Moamer Kadhafi, the foreign ministry in Berlin said Thursday.

An experienced diplomat has been chosen to head the office and a visit should take place by the end of the week, the ministry said.

France, Italy, Qatar and Gambia have officially recognised the rebel National Transitional Council as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

On Wednesday, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the bloc would open an office in Benghazi to shore up assistance for the opposition to the Libyan leader.

The rebel capital hosted a visit by US Republican Senator John McCain on April 22, and by Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski on Wednesday.

NATO, which is conducting air strikes against pro-Kadhafi forces to protect civilians, has decided to establish its own civilian post in Benghazi in an effort to step up political contacts with the opposition.

Britain, France and Italy separately have sent dozens of special military advisers into Benghazi, while Britain said Thursday it was allowing the rebels to open an office in London.

The opposition has been fighting Kadhafi loyalists since the regime violently put down pro-reform protests in mid-February.

International powers agreed last week to set up a new fund to aid the rebels and promised to look into tapping frozen Kadhafi regime assets.

© 2011 AFP

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