U.S. recognizes Libyan rebels

Laura Rozen
The Envoy

The United States will grant official recognition to Libya's main opposition-rebel coalition, the Transitional National Council.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the decision Friday at a meeting in Istanbul of the Contact Group on Libya, comprised of the countries which have been engaged since March in the military intervention against Libya's Muammar Gadhafi.

While the Transitional National Council has offered assurances on its commitment to democratic reforms, "in contrast, the United States views the Gadhafi regime as no longer having any legitimate authority in Libya," Clinton told the Contact Group in Libya Friday. "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."

The move should eventually legally enable the United States to make available to the Libyan opposition some of the $30 billion in frozen Tripli regime assets in U.S. banks, the Associated Press writes.

"In the weeks leading up to this meeting, the situation in Libya has been fluid, but it is clear that momentum is on our side," Clinton said in Istanbul today, citing rebel gains on the ground. "And in the most promising example of positive momentum, increasingly the people of Libya are looking past Gadhafi. They know, as we all know, that it is no longer a question of whether Gadhafi will leave power, but when."

As Clinton's comments indicate, western leaders have in recent weeks moved to concertedly project public confidence that Gadhafi's regime is showing signs of strain amid rebel gains in the west of the country and is experiencing a cash crunch of its own.

But such public displays of confidence have done little to mask concerns that the four-month intervention has gone on far longer than many in the coalition expected it would take. And one looming concern is the coming Muslim holy month of Ramadan which begins in August.

The host of the Contact Group gathering, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, meantime urged his colleagues to open further lines of credit to the cash-strapped Libyan rebels, the AP reports.

(Foreign ministers, from left to right, Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, Sheik Abdullah bin Zayad al Nahyan of United Arab Emirates, U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Trinidad Jimenez of Spain and United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary William Hague, during a meeting of Libya Contact Group in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, July 15, 2011.)