By Senior Staff Writer
The United States has announced it is recognising the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC) as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. Speaking during a one-day gathering of at least a dozen NATO foreign ministers and more than 30 government and international organizations in Istanbul, Turkey, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said the United States viewed the Gaddafi regime as no longer having any legitimate authority over Libya. She went on to say that until an interim authority was announced in Libya, the US would recognise the TNC as the legitimate governing force for Libya.
This announcements means the US and other countries are now able to release at least US$30billion of frozen Libyan assets that they can give to the Libyan rebels to assist them in their struggle to remove Col Gaddafi from power. Not only did the announcement boost the TNC’s financial position, it also added to their credibility. Because the US only recognises states and not governments, the wording – calling the TNC the “legitimate governing authority” – was chosen carefully. It may sound like semantics but the wording had legal implications. There were also concerns about recognising unelected representatives without a clear road map for a transition to democracy.
Mrs Clinton said: “The TNC has offered important assurances today, including the promise to pursue a process of democratic reform that is inclusive both geographically and politically.” The TNC expressed its ‘gratitude and respect to the people of the United States, which it called ‘the protector and promoter of democracy and freedom across the world.
More than 30 Western and Arab countries, have now agreed to recognise the rebels. Many of them have already individually recognised the TNC. Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the decision left Col Gaddafi “no other option” but to leave power. Mr Frattini said the UN special envoy to Libya, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, would take the contact group’s ceasefire proposals to the Libyan leadership, and negotiate on their behalf.
However, Col Gaddafi swiftly rejected the move. Addressing a televised rally in the town of Zlitan, he said: “Trample on those recognitions, trample them under your feet… They are worthless.” A statement released by the group said Col Gaddafi “must leave power according to defined steps to be publicly announced,” and called for “the formation of an interim government to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition of power”.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague used the occasion to announce that in its efforts to put more pressure on Col Gaddafi to quit, Her Majesty’s government would be sending four more fighter jets to Libya. In an interview with Reuters, Mr Hague said the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy to Libya, Abdul Elah Al-Khatib, would be authorised to present terms for Gaddafi to leave power and bring an end to the bloodshed that began with a popular uprising against his 41-year rule in February. Hague said: “He (the special envoy) has taken a central role in this contact group meeting and we see him as the channel for negotiations and for political settlement, while the military pressure on the regime will continue to intensify.”
Reports that rebels have cut an oil pipeline have given leaders pause for thought. The meeting was also expected to explore measures to increase the pressure on the Libyan regime, such as constraining government broadcasting. It was also to look at a report on the TNC’s plans for progress to democracy. Representatives of the Benghazi-based TNC were at the meeting, but invitations to China and Russia were both declined.
Col Gaddafi remains entrenched in the capital Tripoli, despite a NATO bombing campaign of more than 6,000 sorties against regime forces. International sanctions have also been imposed and international arrest warrants issued against Col Gaddafi and his son Al-Saif, as well as leading figures in the Libyan regime. Hague’s pledge for more fighter aircraft came shortly after NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on NATO member states to provide more aircraft to bomb Gaddafi’s forces. Hague announced Britain would send four more Tornado warplanes for the NATO mission in Libya, in addition to the 12 already deployed to support the more modern Eurofighter Typhoons.