French President Nicolas Sarkozy will meet two envoys from Libya’s opposition seeking help against embattled ruler Muammar Gaddafi on Thursday, AFP reported.
It will be the first meeting of a head of state with representatives of the Libyan opposition.
Mahmud Jibril and Ali al-Essawi of Libyan Revolutionaries’ National Council will discuss “the general situation in Libya, in particular the humanitarian situation and the action of Libya’s national transition council,” the office of the French president announced.
The news comes at a time beleaguered Gaddafi has stepped up its diplomatic efforts.
A Gaddafi delegation has met with the EU officials in Brussels and plans are underway to hold talks with NATO officials.
The latest reports say more than 6,000 people have been killed in Libya since the beginning of a blooding crackdown on anti-government protesters on February 17.
According to the United Nations, more than 215,000 Libyans have fled the unrest.
Britain could soon follow France in accepting Libya’s rebel administration as its legitimate government, according to the revolutionary council.
Iman Bugaighis, spokesperson for the Provisional Transitional National Council of Libya in the rebel capital of Benghazi, praised France for rejecting Muammar Gaddafi’s claim to rule and recognising the council as the “only legitimate representative of the Libyan people”.
“We thank the French government for being the first to recognise the Libyan revolutionary council,” Bugaighis said. “We will not forget the role of France. We will remember it long after the revolution is over.”
Bugaighis said the revolutionary administration was concentrating its diplomatic efforts on three other countries, particularly Britain, with whom there have been “favourable” talks. It hoped that recognition would open the way to financial and even military assistance to prosecute the campaign against Gaddafi.
“We are working with Britain, Germany, Turkey,” she said. “We want all these countries to recognise us. Negotiations with the British have been very favourable. We want the legitimacy of recognition from them because we believe that with France they can lead opinion in Europe.”
Bugaighis sidestepped a question about the United States. Revolutionary council officials are unwilling to be publicly critical of President Obama, but are privately disappointed at the White House’s failure to take a more active role in pressing Gaddafi from power.
Libya’s revolutionary leadership hopes to use diplomatic recognition to take control of the country’s financial assets abroad and revenues from oil exports. The main oil fields and refineries lie within rebel-held areas, although some are close to the front line and threatened by Gaddafi’s military push.
The rebel leadership is considering the possibility that it faces an extended conflict against Gaddafi and hopes that diplomatic recognition will strengthen its requests for military assistance.
“We will try all options, even getting weapons,” said Bugaighis.
The revolutionary council has previously announced that Libyan ambassadors and other diplomats who have renounced Gaddafi, including the envoys to Washington and the UN, should be considered by foreign governments as representatives of the insurgents.