Nicolas Sarkozy met Ali al-Essawi (right) and Mahmud Jibril (centre) of Libya's rebel national council, in Paris [AFP]
Whatever the motives behind France's recogition of Libya's opposition's National Council, this is an extremely important event in moving international response to Libya forward. As the first country to do so, former colonial power France has taken a leadership role as the UN and the US dither while Libya's revolution turns more and more into a highly assymetrical war. As a major player in the European Union, France's call for the other countries to follow suit is significant. Portugal has also begun talks with the official leader of the opposion, Mahmud Jibril, and sent a strong message to Gaddafi that his regime is over.
When Nicolas Sarkozy first became President he was eager to step into the ongoing European negotiations with Libya regarding the 6 Bulgarian nurses and 1 Palestinian medical intern under death sentence for causing the AIDS death of 451 Libyan children in Benghazi's El Fatih Children's Hospital (Bulgarian nurses affair/HIV trial in Libya). Though their release was effected by long EU negotiations with Libya on behalf of Bulgaria (the Palestinian was given Bulgarian citizenship for him and his family so that he could be included) and the aid of Qatar, Sarkozy sent his then wife Cécilia on a highly publicized trip to Libya to accompany them back to Bulgaria. The return was effected as a prisoner exchange agreement between Bulgaria and Libya, though all were immediately pardoned on landing in Bulgaria as the international community and leading HIV/AIDS experts worldwide deemed them innocent and the accusations scientifically impossible.
Sarkozy won contracts for France in Libya as a result--including ones building nuclear capacity--and may only be protecting those interests now. Sarkozy also has great nostalgia for France's former colonial empire which included military administration (1943-51) of the southwestern region of modern day Libya, the Fezzan. Another motive may simply be Sarkozy's general desire to be seen as a leader on the international stage, and indeed he has begun an exchange of national representatives with Benghazi.
Whatever the motive, though I rarely find reason to cheer Sarko, this time je crie haut et fort: BRAVO!
France supports Libya rebel council
Paris becomes first major European power to recognise National Council as country's legitimate representative.Last Modified: 10 Mar 2011 11:27 GMT
France has become the first major European power to recognise Libya's opposition National Council as the country's legitimate representative.
The move, which will see an ambassador sent to the rebel-held town of Benghazi in Libya's east, was announced during a meeting between envoys from the council and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, in Paris on Thursday.
"France has recognised the national transition council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people," Ali al-Issawi, an envoy from the council said after the talks. The French presidency also issued a similar statement.
Al-Issawi added that the council would "open a diplomatic mission, that is our own embassy in Paris, and an ambassador from France will be sent to Benghazi".
"This ambassador will be in Benghazi for a transition period before returning to Tripoli."
'Gaddafi must go'
Tim Friend, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Paris, said the French announcement was a "very significant statement of intent which reinforces France's recognition that the Libyan transitional National Council is the legitimate body now representing Libya".
"I think France has gone further than anyone else so far in doing that," he said.
Opposition forces set up the National Council in Benghazi on February 27, weeks after a popular revolt against the 40-year rule of Muammar Gaddafi began in the country.
Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, has also urged partners in the European Union to follow suit and engage with Libyan opposition leaders.
Speaking after talks with Guido Westerwelle, his German counterpart, Juppe said: "We are on the same track to say Colonel Gaddafi is discredited, he must go, we must engage dialogue with the new Libyan representatives."
Luis Amado, the Portuguese foreign minister, said he had sent a message to Gaddafi saying his regime "is over".
"The message I sent was that the Gaddafi regime in our view is over, it's legitimacy is over," he said on Thursday.
Let's hope that on this one, other countries follow France's lead.
Your comments, thoughts, impressions?
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