Libyan rebel chief in London to discuss new office

The head of Libya`s rebel council will meet UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Updated: May 12, 2011, 13:47 PM IST

London: The head of Libya`s rebel council will meet on Thursday with Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss the possibility of setting up a London office, the government confirmed.

Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil will also meet Foreign Secretary William Hague and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to examine measures agreed at last week`s Contact Group meeting in Rome.

"I am very pleased to welcome Mr Abdul Jalil to the UK," Hague said in a Foreign Office (FCO) statement.

Among the "range of issues" to be addressed are the "establishment of a permanent NTC office in London and the provision of further non-lethal equipment and support to the NTC", he added.

It will be the first time that Jalil has met Cameron for face-to-face talks.

"The situation in Libya remains of very serious concern, and this visit provides a welcome opportunity to discuss... the latest situation on the ground," the government statement continued.

International talks aimed at helping to fund the Libyan rebel movement took place in Rome last Thursday, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen in attendance.

It was the second meeting of the International Contact Group for Libya after an inaugural conference in Qatar last month. The group includes all the nations taking part in a NATO-led campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

The officials will also discuss details of the Transitional Financial Mechanism, an instrument set up by the Contact Group to "provide essential services to the people of Libya" and which becomes operational on Thursday.

Jalil, who will be accompanied by colleagues from the NTC, will hold a press conference in London`s FCO headquarters at 1400 GMT.

Hague meanwhile repeated Britain`s demand for Gaddafi to stand down, and accused the long-serving leader of "brutalising" his own people.

The Foreign Minister was also to talk with Jalil about the "deeply troubling" situation in Libya`s west, where rebels and troops loyal to Gaddafi are engaged in fierce battles.

The rebels scored a vital success Wednesday as they captured the strategic Misrata airport after a bloody fight with Kadhafi`s troops, marking their first significant advance in weeks.

The airport of Libya`s third-largest city, which had been under siege by loyalist forces for almost two months, fell to the rebels after fighting that raged through the night, a news agency correspondent at the scene said.

By Wednesday afternoon, insurgent fighters were in full control, as people celebrated the victory in the streets while others torched tanks left behind by Gaddafi troops.

France, Italy, Qatar and Gambia have already recognised the rebel NTC, based in the eastern rebel bastion of Benghazi, as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

Hague said the NTC was "a legitimate representative" but stopped short of recognising it as the only one.

The former Conservative party leader Wednesday argued the events taking place across the Arab world were "the most significant development of the early 21st century".

Addressing supporters of the Arab International Women`s Forum, Hague said the "Arab Spring" was "more important for the long-term future of the world than 9/11 and... the 2008 financial crisis".

Bureau Report