Paris hails rebel advance as victory for Fifth Republic


Molly Guinness
Tuesday 23 August 2011 00:00 BST

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Louise Thomas

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French politicians of all colours were claiming the advance of the Libyan rebels as a national coup yesterday, with leaders from across the political spectrum issuing patriotic statements as the battle reached Muammar Gaddafi's compound.

"Hour by hour France is following the situation in Libya, which is at tipping point," Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said, before announcing a conference for the International Contact Group on Libya in Paris next week. "This is obviously a great satisfaction for us.

"France took calculated risks. The cause was just. France was the first power to recognise the National Transitional Council and we are fully committed to them."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke to the NTC leader Mahmoud Jibril and arranged to meet him on Wednesday.

A statement from the Elysée Palace said Mr Sarkozy had assured Mr Jibril of his support and had urged a transition period to establish unity and democracy.

"The end of Gaddafi and his regime is inevitable and close," the statement said. "The President of the Republic condemns in the strongest possible terms Gaddafi's irresponsible and desperate calls to continue the fight at all costs."

Mr Sarkozy had staked his reputation on achieving a favourable outcome to the conflict in Libya.

He was one of the most vociferous advocates of military action against the Gaddafi regime as it approached Benghazi in March. He annoyed Nato members when French warplanes carried out sorties over Libya in advance of other alliance members.

After responding slowly to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, France pushed strongly for the United Nations Security Council resolution 1973, which authorised military intervention in Libya.

The vote in March was seen as a victory for Mr Sarkozy, who had sent personal letters to the heads of member states to urge them to support the motion.

Even Mr Sarkozy's Socialist Party rival, Ségolène Royal, welcomed the news of the rebel advance against Colonel Gaddafi. Ms Royal told French radio that she hoped France could now participate in the rebuilding of Libya.

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