Western powers boost Libyan rebels at Istanbul talks | Pakistan Today

Western powers boost Libyan rebels at Istanbul talks

Western and regional powers looked to boost Libyan rebels battling to topple Moamer Gaddafi by designating them Friday as the country’s legitimate rulers, a move that gives them access to vital funds.
The fourth meeting of the Libya contact group in Istanbul saw fresh calls for Gaddafi to quit after more than four decades in power. But in a sign of some of the tensions between the allies, Libya’s former colonial rulers Italy warned against any backdoor negotiations with the Gaddafi regime, saying any such move was counter-productive.
With Gaddafi hanging on in Tripoli despite almost four months of NATO-led bombings, the rebels Thursday launched an offensive on the oil town of Brega, hoping they can dislodge loyalist troops and win a key strategic victory. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, her counterparts William Hague of Britain, Alain Juppe of France and Franco Frattini of Italy as well as NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen were among officials from some 40 countries and international organisations attending the talks.
Juppe said said the group had decided to recognise the rebel National Transitional Council as the country’s “governmental authority”, a move which a number of countries have already taken on a unilateral basis. “In the final statement it will be indicated that the contact group recognises the National Transitional Council as Libya’s legitimate governmental authority,” Juppe told journalists. “This means that we can now unfreeze certain Libyan state assets because it is the NTC that will henceforth exercise this responsibility.” Frattini revealed that Italy had decided to unfreeze some 100 million euros that would now be handed to the rebels and that a further 300 million euros would follow.
But in an apparent rebuke to Paris, he insisted that secret talks to end the conflict were counter-productive. “All the attempts to have secret, confidential mediation, discussion with a number of countries, because there were some contacts, those prove very counter-productive,” Frattini told reporters in Istanbul. Juppe acknowledged earlier this week that France had had “contacts” with the Libyan regime concerning the departure of Gaddafi although he said that no real negotiations had taken place.
Frattini however said that the UN special envoy for Libya, Abdel Ilah al-Khatib, would be designated at the meeting as “the sole interlocuter” between the Gaddafi regime and the rebels based in Benghazi.
“Mr al-Khatib is entitled to present a political package including the ceasefire, and to negotiate with Tripoli and Benghazi to form a govt of national unity,” he said. Frattini again emphasised that Italy regarded Gaddafi’s departure as a prerequisite for any resolution to the crisis. “There is no other option but Gaddafi leaves. The question now is when and how,” he said. A European diplomat, requesting anonymity, said the meeting would largely focus on trying to bring an end to Gaddafi’s rule.
Libya contact group recognises rebel council: The Libya contact group recognised Friday the rebel National Transitional Council as the country’s “legitimate governmental authority,” according to a statement seen by AFP.
The group of major Western and regional powers also urged “all relevant parties” to make efforts “for the formation of an interim government to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition of power,” said the statement, to be formally issued at the end of a meeting in Istanbul later Friday. AFP

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