Libya rebels set up Paris, London ambassadors

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The Libyan rebel movement installed ambassadors in Paris and London on Thursday, formalising ties with its main allies in the fight to topple ruler Moamer Kadhafi from power in Tripoli.

The rebel National Transitional Council's new man in Paris, Mansur Saif Al-Nasr, 63, told AFP he handed his credentials to the French foreign ministry and was waiting for the keys to the embassy vacated by Kadhafi's envoys in May.

Nasr told AFP he is a former member of the Libyan human rights league and an exiled opposition movement. He left Libya in 1969 and lived abroad, including 20 years in the United States.

The NTC's coordinator in Britain, Guma Al-Gamaty, said it had nominated Mahmud Nacua, a 74-year-old writer and intellectual, as its ambassador to London.

Britain said it was expelling all remaining Kadhafi loyalists from their embassy in London and that it had followed France in recognising the NTC as the sole governing authority in Libya.

France and Britain are taking part in NATO-coordinated strikes against Kadhafi's military assets. Paris was the first outside state to formally recognise the rebels as legitimate interlocutors.

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim said Britain's move was "irresponsible, illegal and in violation of British and international laws" and said Libya would challenge it in the courts.

In an interview with the BBC, Nacua said the rebels desperately needed more funds to arm the resistance movement against Kadhafi's forces, which began more than five months ago.

France has said it dropped light arms to the rebels in the Nafusa Mountains, southwest of Tripoli, to help them defend themselves against Kadhafi's forces.

Elsewhere the rebels are pushing a fierce offensive against Kadhafi.

As a five-month NATO-coordinated bombing campaign against Kadhafi's military assets has dragged on, France and later Britain have forged ties with the rebels' political leaders.

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy has met with the rebels to discuss prospects for a political settlement to the conflict.

The two allies have accepted that a settlement may have to involve Kadhafi staying in Libya if he quits power, despite calls for international justice. There remained little sign that his departure was imminent, however.

The Libya contact group, a body of 40 countries and international organisations including the United States, two weeks ago recognised the NTC as Libya's legitimate government and called on Kadhafi to go.

© 2011 AFP

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