Last updated: 24 May, 2011

Libyan rebels to open office in US

Libya’s rebels have accepted an invitation to open a representative office in Washington, top United States official Jeffrey Feltman said Tuesday, as he renewed a US call for Moamer Kadhafi to step down immediately.

“I delivered a formal invitation to the council for the opening of a representation in Washington,” Feltman told a news conference, referring to the rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC).

“This step is an important milestone… and we are happy they accepted it,” he added.

Feltman, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, is in Benghazi on a three-day visit for talks with the rebel leadership.

On the issue of calls for US recognition of the NTC as the “sole legitimate interlocutor” of Libyans, Feltman noted the council was in fact already the only representative of the country in Washington.

“We have a special envoy in Benghazi. President (Barack) Obama has just invited the NTC to establish a representative office in Washington,” he said.

“We have no office in Tripoli now. And we asked the Kadhafi people to close their embassy in Washington.

“Our officials see members of the council, the council sees us,” said Feltman.

“There is ongoing diplomatic, political relationship and dialogue with members of the council who are considered by our fellows credible and legitimate representatives of the Libyan people.”

Britain, France, Gambia, Italy and Qatar have already recognised the rebel council as their sole interlocutor in Libya.

Feltman, the highest ranking US official to visit the rebel stronghold of Benghazi since its people revolted against Kadhafi in mid-February, renewed Washington’s demand for the Libyan strongman to give up power.

“Kadhafi has lost legitimacy to rule. He must step down immediately,” he told the news conference.

“You have to accept that there is no magic bullet, no magic solution for Kadhafi to go now,” he added.

Feltman also announced the US was granting the Libyan opposition $53.5 million in aid, including for humanitarian needs, as well as $25 million in non-lethal military supplies.