France recognises Libyan rebels’ group



France recognises Libyan rebels’ group Brussels: France is recognising the Libyan opposition's Interim Governing Council and plans to exchange ambassadors with the newly formed body, the president's office said Thursday.

It is the first country to recognise the group. President Nicolas Sarkozy met with two representatives of the transition council based in the eastern city of Benghazi, which was taken over by rebels in a deadly uprising against Moammar Gaddafi.

The European Parliament is encouraging EU member states to recognise the opposition government. The council representatives were in Strasbourg, the parliament's base, earlier this week, but EU policy is normally to recognise states, not governments.

Details of the meeting between Sarkozy and the envoys were not immediately available. The president's office had said that the humanitarian situation in Libya and the actions of the Interim Governing Council were to top the agenda.

Meanwhile, Germany said it had frozen the assets of the Libyan Central Bank and other state-run agencies in an attempt to cut off funding to Moammar Gaddafi's embattled regime.

Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle said in a statement today that the total amount blocked is "in the billions." The "measures are a clear reaction to the developments in Libya. The brutal suppression of the Libyan freedom movement can now no longer be financed from funds that are in German banks," he said.

Bruederle's ministry had already provisionally blocked Libyan accounts March 1. Also affected are accounts belonging to the Libya Africa Investment Portfolio, the Libyan Foreign Bank and the Libyan Investment Authority.

The actions by France and Germany came as NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, of which the United States is a member, said it had started round-the-clock surveillance of the air space over Libya, where government jets have been pounding rebel positions in an effort to defeat a widespread uprising.

PTI