Thursday, 10 March 2011

Clinton to meet Libyan rebels

US secretary of state says she will meet representatives of opposition council, as France, UK call for Gaddafi exit.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, is to meet with leaders of Libya's opposition council during a trip to the Middle East next week, she has told US lawmakers.
Clinton's statement of intent comes as France on Thursday became the first major European country to recognise Libya's opposition National Council based in Benghazi as the country's legitimate representative. In a separate joint statement with the United Kingdom, France also called for the Gaddafi "clique" to leave office.
"We are reaching out to the opposition inside and outside of Libya," Clinton said while announcing her trip to Tunisia and Egypt.
"I will be meeting with some of those figures, both in the United States and when I travel next week, to discuss what more the United States and others can do," she said.
The opposition council is led by Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the former justice minister, who resigned soon after the Libyan government began a violent crackdown on protesters in February.
Earlier, Gene Cretz, the US Ambassador to Libya, met with opponents of the government led by Muammar Gaddafi.
"We are engaging a wide range of leaders, and those who both understand and can potentially influence events in Libya," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters on Tuesday.
Clinton on Thursday also asserted that there was a need for international consensus on any intervention in Libya, and that a unilateral move by the United States could have "unforseeable" consequences.
She also expressed doubt that any proposed no-fly zone would Libya would serve to protect citizens effectively, pointing to the examples of previous such measures taken against Iraq and Serbia.
"We are working to create an international consensus because we think that is absolutely critical to anything that
anybody, especially us, does," Clinton said, saying there was considerable ambivalence over what should be done.
"Absent international authorisation, the United States acting alone would be stepping into a situation whose
consequences are unforeseeable," Clinton said.
Clinton said the United States was focusing on humanitarian relief and building links to Libya's opposition groups, adding that the State Department had suspended its relations with the Libyan embassy in Washington and that it was expected to "end operations as the embassy of Libya".
She also warned that Gaddafi's government was still in possession of "chemical weapons".
Jay Carney, the White House's spokesman, said on Thursday that the US government had reached out to Libyan opposition groups, but that it was still in the process of finding out "what their vision is, who they represent, what their ideas are and where they would take Libya in a post-Gaddafi future".
Cameron, Sarkozy pressure
David Cameron, the UK's prime minister, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, on Thursday issued a joint statement calling for the Gaddafi government to step down.

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