Echoing US, Britain recognizes Libya's rebels: What do they gain?
Britain officially recognized Libya's rebels as the country's legitimate authority. The move is expected to give the rebels access to some, but not all, of Libya's British-held assets.
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The British decision, like that of the US, is primarily aimed at paving the legal path for the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council (TNC) to begin receiving some of the billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets held in Western countries.
But by recognizing the rebel organization as Libya’s legitimate governing body, Western governments are transforming what they initiated as a humanitarian intervention into a regime-change operation.
Also on Wednesday, the rebel council’s leader withdrew an offer to allow Muammar Qaddafi to remain on Libyan soil after leaving power.
Foreign Secretary William Hague, who announced Britain’s new policy, said his government will now deal exclusively with the TNC on Libyan matters.
In line with that decision, the British government also summoned the top remaining official representing Mr. Qaddafi’s government in London and ordered him and other diplomats representing the Qaddafi regime to leave the country.
“We no longer recognize them as the representatives of the Libyan government,” Secretary Hague said.
As part of his comments on Libya, Hague also expressed the current British government’s disgust at seeing convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi in television news reports participating in a pro-Qaddafi rally in Tripoli. Mr. Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison in 2009 on humanitarian grounds based on supposed medical reports that he had only three months to live.
Hague said the sight of Megrahi publicly rallying for Qaddafi two years later was “further reminder that a great mistake was made” by the previous British government, and that the medical advice at the time was “pretty worthless.”
Senator Menendez, who failed to get cooperation from the British government when he held a hearing last year on Megrahi’s release, said in a statement that he interpreted Hague’s comments as acknowledgment that “pressure from the UK government on the Scottish government was a factor in the convicted terrorist being let go.”