Libyan rebels open embassy in London

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Libya's rebel council officially took over the country's embassy in Britain on Tuesday, opening its doors as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people in London.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who invited the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) to take over the embassy and appoint an official envoy at the end of last month, welcomed the move.

"The National Transitional Council is the sole legitimate governmental authority in Libya. It is therefore right that their representatives are now staffing the Libyan embassy," Hague said.

"Doing so marks very clearly the fundamental change that is taking place in Libya."

He said Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, whose diplomats were expelled from Britain last month following Hague's announcement, had lost all legitimacy and was now trying to keep hold of power "with increasing desperation".

The embassy is now headed by the NTC's charge d'affaires, Mahmud Nacua, who officially opened the mission by hoisting the black, red and green Libyan flag with a crescent and star which Kadhafi had banned for more than 40 years.

In a statement, Nacua said it was a "very important moment", saying: "The re-opening of the embassy symbolises how far we have come."

He promised the diplomatic mission would "serve all the Libyan community irrespective of their political allegiances", and thanked the British government for its "steadfast support".

Britain is one of the lead nations in a NATO-led alliance that has conducted an aerial bombing campaign against Kadhafi's regime since March, when the UN approved action to protect civilians.

© 2011 AFP

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