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Libyan rebel envoy did not seek recognition: Russia

Russia said Tuesday that a visiting Libyan rebel envoy never sought Moscow’s formal recognition of his government in the eastern city of Benghazi.

National Transitional Council (NTC) representative Abdel-Rahman Shalgam met Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday for talks in which he dismissed Russia’s call for dialogue with Moamer Kadhafi’s regime.

Russia has criticised the international campaign in Libya and is one of the few global powers to still formally recognises Kadhafi’s government in Tripoli.

Lavrov provided few details of Monday’s meeting with the rebel envoy but said recognition of Benghazi was never on the agenda.

“Mr. Shalgam particularly underscored that he is not asking for the recognition of the National Transitional Council,” news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying.

“He is asking the Council to be viewed as a legitimate negotiating partner,” Lavrov added.

Russia abstained from a March vote at the United Nations that effectively authorised the use of force and has since accused the West of openly siding with the rebels and trying to unseat or eliminate Kadhafi.

The Benghazi delegation had initially been due to arrive in Moscow on May 18 but then delayed the visit for “technical” reasons.

Moscow had hosted a top Kadhafi representative a day earlier and was later forced to deny suggestions it was trying to get the two sides to sit down at the negotiating table and thus raise its own sway in the Arab world.