Libyan rebel official set for White House talks

Mahmud Jibril wants US to recognise his movement as Libya`s rightful rulers.

Updated: May 13, 2011, 13:02 PM IST

Washington: Senior Libyan rebel Mahmud Jibril will hold his first talks at the White House on Friday, but his bid for Washington to recognise his movement as the country`s rightful rulers looks set to be denied.

Jibril also warned ahead of talks with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon that the opposition-led Transitional National Council (TNC) was running short of money and was in desperate need of help in its fight with Muammar Gaddafi.

US officials would not say whether President Barack Obama would drop by Jibril`s meeting with Donilon, a practice sometimes used by the White House for guests for whom protocol does not dictate an official meeting.

Asked by CNN television what he expected from Friday`s talks with the US administration, Jibril replied: "We need the recognition."

The Libyan opposition, based in the eastern city of Benghazi, wanted Washington to recognise the body as "the sole legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people”, he added.

Unlike France, Italy and Qatar, the United States has not yet recognised the TNC. Jibril told CNN he believed that Jordan would recognise the opposition in the coming days.

"All we need is for the world to understand our cause and help us get our legitimate rights realised," he said.

But White House spokesman Jay Carney signalled that Washington, which helped launch the NATO military operation against Gaddafi`s forces but has since taken a support role, was not ready to grant full status to the TNC.

"If the question is recognising the (TNC) as the official government of Libya, I think that`s premature," he said.

But Carney added: "We think that the Council serves and has served as a credible and legitimate interlocutor for the Libyan people, for the opposition."

Jibril, who handles foreign policy for the TNC, has also been meeting senior congressional figures and other administration officials in Washington.

He warned earlier that the Council was facing a "very acute financial problem" and needed help from the US administration.

Last week in Rome, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the Gaddafi regime`s frozen assets in the United States would be used to help the Libyan people.

Around USD 30 billion (EUR 20 billion) in Libyan assets have been frozen in the United States as a result of economic sanctions.

Jibril`s visit comes as the Obama administration gradually steps up contacts with the Libyan opposition to better understand the movement before deciding on the extent of US assistance.

The rebel movement is becoming increasingly well known in the capitals of nations policing a NATO-led no-fly zone over Libya and leading air strikes against Gaddafi`s forces.

Jibril spoke to CNN as TNC leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil was in London.

British Prime Minister David Cameron met Abdul Jalil on Thursday and invited Libya`s rebels to open an office in London, their first in a foreign country.

The opposition`s immediate concern was to meet the humanitarian needs of the Libyan people, Jibril told CNN.

Recent NATO air strikes have been very effective against the onslaught by pro-Gaddafi forces, he said. "Protecting civilians is a job that has to be carried out against this genocide taking place day and night."

"Libya is facing a critical crisis right now," he said, adding that he was "worried about the future of Libya, the aftermath."

The rebels were also open to negotiating an end to what he called the "genocide and manslaughter" going on in the north African nation, including allowing Gaddafi to go into exile in another country.

Bureau Report