France on Thursday announced it was officially recognising the Libyan National Council as the sole representative of the Libyan people, further increasing the pressure on Muammar Qadhafi.
Two representatives of the council who are now on a tour of major world capitals to ask for recognition and military and humanitarian support met President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Thursday. “France recognises the National Transition Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people,” Ali Essaoui, one of the two representatives, told reporters after the meeting.
Mr. Sarkozy has also placed the building of the former Libyan Embassy to Paris at the disposal of the council. France has become the first Western power to fully legitimise the rebellion. Paris said it would send an Ambassador to Benghazi, Libya's second largest city and the seat of the rebellion. The Council too will send a representative to France.
Mr. Sarkozy will present a “global plan” on the Libyan crisis at an emergency summit of European Union heads of government in Brussels on Friday. France is also pushing for a no-fly zone at the NATO Defence Ministers' meeting being held in Brussels on Thursday.
Mr. Qadhafi was quick to react, threatening to divulge “a serious secret” about Mr. Sarkozy that could result in the downfall of the French President. The Libyan Press Agency Jana said it has “learnt that a serious secret linked to the financing of his electoral campaign would bring about the prosecution and downfall of President Sarkozy.”
This announcement, which was broadcast by Libyan national television, was made just minutes after Mr. Sarkozy's meeting with members of the Libyan National Council in Paris. An official of the Libyan Foreign Ministry also indicated that Tripoli could sever its diplomatic ties with France. There was no official French reaction to these declarations.