France first to recognize Libyan opposition and sends ambassador to Benghazi

AFP , Thursday 10 Mar 2011

Sarkozy's government steps up its support of Libya's national transition council with temporary diplomatic mission in Benghazi while working on UN resoluton for a no-fly zone

France became the first country to recognise Libya's opposition national council on Thursday and will send an ambassador to the rebel-held city of Benghazi, officials on both sides said.

"France has recognised the national transition council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people," one of the council's envoys, Ali al-Issawi, told reporters after meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"On the basis of this recognition, we are going to open a diplomatic mission, that is our own embassy in Paris, and an ambassador from France will be sent to Benghazi," he added.

"This ambassador will be in Benghazi for a transition period before returning to Tripoli."

His statement was confirmed by a French presidential official.

Sarkozy was the first head of state to meet with the Libyan opposition. His talks came on the eve of an emergency European Union summit in Brussels at which he is expected to propose major measures to resolve the Libyan crisis.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and European lawmakers met the two opposition envoys this week, but Ashton hesitated to recognise the council immediately.

Sarkozy has repeatedly called for Gaddafi to quit power in the face of the pro-democracy uprising in the north African country, where fighting has intensified between the rebels and forces loyal to the regime.

France, along with Britain, is working at the United Nations on a possible resolution for a no-fly zone over Libya.

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