Moving ahead of its allies, France on Thursday became the first country to recognize Libya’s rebel leadership in the eastern city of Benghazi and said it would soon exchange ambassadors with the insurgents.Part of the problem for various countries in dealing with the ongoing situation in Libya is who exactly is speaking for the rebel groups and their disparate interests that are united only in getting rid of Khadafi. With France moving ahead of the US or other NATO countries, the French are taking the situation to a different level and may pave the way for a no-fly zone to protect the gains made by the rebel groups. France is expected to announce further diplomatic moves in meetings with EU partners on Friday. Britain appears to be open to recognizing the Libyan National Council as well, and it's likely that the EU will follow France's lead. Once the EU acts, expect other countries to join with the French on recognizing the National Council to further alienate Khadafi.
The move was a victory for the Libyan National Council in its quest for recognition and a setback for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi who has been seeking whatever international support he can as NATO members in Brussels began a debate about the possible imposition of a no-flight zone over Libya.
The French announcement came as loyalist forces in Libya claimed new successes against the rebels west of the capital in the town of Zawiyah, while, to the east, loyalist forces renewed ferocious assaults on the key oil town of Ras Lanuf.
President Nicolas Sarkozy met in Paris on Thursday with Mahmoud Jibril and Ali Al-Esawi, representatives of the Libyan National Council that was set up after the uprising in Libya erupted in February. He was the first head of state to meet with insurgent leaders.
Moreover, it could lead to the announcement of a secession by the Eastern portion of the country from Libya should the rebels be unable to gain territory up to and including the capital of Tripoli.
Khadafi, meanwhile, continues to use his considerable fortune to pay off his mercenaries and loyalists and flacks internationally but his loyalists also have no problem kidnapping and murdering those opposed to Khadafi. Hundreds, if not thousands, have disappeared and they have likely been murdered by the regime's backers.
Khadafi's loyalists have forced the rebels from Ras Lanuf, a major oil production city.
Those Khadafi loyalists also assaulted a BBC news team, and terrorized them with a mock execution:
Khadafi's thugs captured two more journalists and it is clear that Khadafi's hoping to intimidate journalists into not covering the ongoing story in the country - and assaulting, kidnapping, and torturing journalists is part and parcel of Khadafi's attempts to hold on to power.
French President Nicholas Sarkozy is even floating the idea of going well beyond a no-fly zone to actually carrying out aistrikes against Khadafi's forces.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy will propose air strikes on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's command headquarters to EU leaders, a source close to discussions has told AFP.Given the reluctance of the US to carry out even a no-fly zone, the idea of airstrikes isn't going to go over well with the US or NATO. The US would be at the forefront of any no-fly zone operation given its logistical capabilities and the lack of same among the European countries - particularly since the US could move a carrier task force into range to handle the operation.
At an EU summit on the Libyan crisis, he will propose "striking an extremely limited number of points which are the source of the most deadly operations" by forces loyal to Gaddafi, the source, who asked not to be named, said on Thursday.
The three sites being considered are Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizia command headquarters in Tripoli, a military air base in Syrte, east of Tripoli and another in Sebha in the south, the source said.
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Sarkozy's office declined to confirm the claim when contacted by AFP.