Libyan rebels leave White House without official recognition they sought
A senior delegation of Libyan rebels met with national security officials at the White House after a week with some military and diplomatic gains. But the US is withholding official recognition.
Libyan rebels met with top national security officials at the White House Friday, but the delegation failed to achieve the main plum it sought from the visit: official recognition by the United States of Libya’s self-declared interim government.Skip to next paragraph
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In a statement issued Friday afternoon, the White House said national security adviser Tom Donilon met with Mahmoud Gibril, president of the Libyan Transitional National Council’s Executive Bureau, and his delegation as part of “close consultations” between the Obama administration and the council.
The US recognizes the council as a “legitimate and credible interlocutor of the Libyan people,” the statement said. In contrast, it added, Mr. Donilon stressed to the Libyan opposition delegation that Muammar Qaddafi has “lost his legitimacy to rule” and reiterated President Obama’s call for Colonel Qaddafi to “leave immediately.”
But the statement skirted the issue of official US recognition of the interim government, just as it made no specific mention of efforts to make available to the rebels some of the $34 billion in Libyan funds the US holds.
Setback after positive week
The setback in Washington came at the end of what was largely a positive week for the rebels battling Qaddafi. Rebel fighters claimed some advances on the ground, taking control of the airport in the key western city of Misurata. Diplomatically the rebels also appeared to score a considerable gain when British Prime Minister David Cameron invited the Transitional National Council based in the rebel-controlled city of Benghazi to open a representative office in London.
But Washington continued to hold the rebels at arm’s length, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates stating Thursday that the US reluctance to provide lethal aid to the Libyan opposition derives from the fact that “we don’t know who they are.”