The United States joined 30 other nations in formally recognising Libya's rebel opposition as the legitimate government Friday, a move which could grant them access to billions of dollars in frozen funds.
AP - More than 30 nations, including the United States, on Friday declared that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime is no longer legitimate and formally recognized Libya’s main opposition group as the country’s government.
In a final statement following a meeting of the so-called Contact Group on Libya, the nations said: the “Gadhafi regime no longer has any legitimate authority in Libya,” and Gadhafi and certain 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 Gadhafi a major financial and credibility boost. Diplomatic recognition of the council means that the U.S. will be able to fund the opposition with some of the more than $30 billion in Gahdafi-regime assets that are frozen in American banks.
“The United States views the Gadhafi regime as no longer having any legitimate authority in Libya,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. “And so I am announcing today that, until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, and we will deal with it on that basis.”
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private diplomatic conversations with the TNC and the other Contact Group members, said Friday’s decision indicates strong support for TNC and that Gadhafi’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 U.S. 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 U.S., and at the United Nations, to fully legalize that step.
The recognition does not mean that the U.S. diplomatic mission in the rebel-held city of Benghazi, Libya, is now an embassy. Titles of staff and names of offices would be decided in the coming days, the official said.
In addition to the U.S., the Contact Group on Libya includes members of NATO, the European Union and the Arab League.