Libyan rebel chief holds talks with British PM in London

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The head of Libya's rebel council held his first talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday, with the two leaders discussing the possibility of opening an office in London.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chief of the Transitional National Council, is seeking more aid for the rebels' fight against Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, who a day earlier was shown on television for the first time in nearly two weeks.

Jalil will also meet Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague and finance minister George Osborne to study measures agreed at last week's meeting in Rome of key nations involved in efforts to support the rebels.

Cameron and Jalil shook hands outside the British premier's Downing Street office before heading inside. A spokeswoman for Cameron told AFP it was the first time Jalil has met the British leader for face-to-face talks.

In a statement ahead of the talks, Hague said: "The situation in Libya remains of very serious concern, and this visit provides a welcome opportunity to discuss... the latest situation on the ground."

Among the "range of issues" to be covered are the "establishment of a permanent TNC office in London and the provision of further non-lethal equipment and support to the TNC," he added.

Jalil's visit to London comes after similar trips in April to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome.

France, Italy, Qatar and Gambia have already recognised the rebel NTC, based in the eastern rebel bastion of Benghazi, as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

Hague said the TNC was "a legitimate representative" but stopped short of recognising it as the only one.

International talks aimed at helping to fund the Libyan rebel movement took place in Rome last Thursday featuring US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

It was the second meeting of the International Contact Group for Libya after the first in Qatar last month. The group includes all the nations taking part in the NATO-led campaign against Kadhafi's regime.

The talks in London on Thursday will also deal with details of the Transitional Financial Mechanism, an instrument set up by the Contact Group to "provide essential services to the people of Libya".

It becomes operational on Thursday.

Jalil, who will be accompanied by colleagues from the council, is due to give a press conference at the Foreign Office in London at 1400 GMT.

Hague meanwhile repeated Britain's demand for Kadhafi to stand down, and accused the long-serving leader of "brutalising" his own people.

The foreign minister was also to talk with Jalil about the "deeply troubling" situation in Libya's west, where rebels and troops loyal to Kadhafi are engaged in fierce battles.

The rebels scored a vital success Wednesday as they captured the strategic airport in the western city of Misrata after a bloody fight with Kadhafi's troops, marking their first significant advance in weeks.

Libyan state TV late Wednesday showed footage of Kadhafi in a meeting, his first appearance since an air strike that the regime said killed Kadhafi's son Seif al-Arab and three of his grandchildren.

It said the footage was of a meeting between Kadhafi and eastern tribal leaders. Libyan officials said the April 30 air strike was an assassination attempt on their leader.

An international coalition began carrying out strikes on forces loyal to Kadhafi on March 19. NATO took command of operations over Libya on March 31.

Hague said on Wednesday that events across the Arab world this year were "the most significant development of the early 21st century".

Addressing supporters of the Arab International Women's Forum, Hague said the "Arab Spring" was "more important for the long-term future of the world than 9/11 and... the 2008 financial crisis".

© 2011 AFP

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