Libyan rebels formally recognised as opposition

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The Independent Online

More than 30 nations, including the United States, have formally recognised Libya's main opposition group as the country's government.

They declared that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's regime is no longer legitimate.

In a final statement following a meeting in Istanbul of the so-called Contact Group on Libya, the nations said the "Gaddafi regime no longer has any legitimate authority in Libya," and Gaddafi and members of his family must go.

The group said it would deal with Libya's main opposition group - the National Transitional Council, or TNC - as "the legitimate governing authority in Libya" until an interim authority is in place.

The recognition of the Libyan opposition as the legitimate government gives foes of Gaddafi a major financial and credibility boost.

Diplomatic recognition of the council means that the US will be able to fund the opposition with some of the more than 30 billion dollars (£19 billion) in Gaddafi-regime assets that are frozen in American banks.

"The United States views the Gaddafi regime as no longer having any legitimate authority in Libya," said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"And so I am announcing today that, until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognise the TNC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, and we will deal with it on that basis."

A senior US official said the decision indicates strong support for TNC and that Gaddafi's time is up.

The National Transitional Council won international recognition after it said it would abide by its commitments and find a way forward for a truly democratic Libyan government, the official said.

The assurances included upholding the group's international obligations, pursuing a democratic reform process that is both geographically and politically inclusive, and dispersing funds for the benefit of the Libyan people.

The US official said the recognition of TNC as the government of Libya would allow countries to help the opposition access additional funds.

However, he stressed that more legal work needs to be done by some countries, including the US, and at the United Nations, to fully legalise that step.

The recognition does not mean that the US diplomatic mission in the rebel-held city of Benghazi, Libya, is now an embassy.

In addition to the US, the Contact Group on Libya includes members of Nato, the European Union and the Arab League.