The United States has joined more than 30 Western and Arab countries — as well as NATO, the European Union and the Arab League — in declaring Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government illegitimate and formally recognizing the rebel leadership as Libya’s legitimate government.
At a meeting Friday in Turkey of the Libya Contact Group, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters that the Transitional National Council, the Libyan group leading the uprising against Qaddafi, offered “important assurances” to the Contact Group that it would enact democratic reforms.
“The United States is impressed by the progress the TNC has made in laying the groundwork for a successful transition to a unified democratic Libya that protects the rights of all of its citizens, including women and minority groups,” Clinton stated. “The assurances the TNC offered today reinforce our confidence that it is the appropriate interlocutor for the United States in dealing with Libya’s present and addressing Libya’s future.”
The same day a group of U.S. senators issued a joint statement supporting the decision to recognize the Transitional National Council.
“This is an encouraging step, which demonstrates America’s commitment to support the Libyan people as they fight to liberate their country from the Qaddafi regime and establish democracy,” stated Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent with no party affiliation, joined his Republicans colleagues in the statement.
The statement continued: “Recognition should now open the door for more robust United States and international support for the TNC, including facilitating their access to the frozen assets of the Qaddafi regime for the benefit of the Libyan people and to support the NATO mission.”
The senators called on the President Barack Obama and his administration to “remove any remaining obstacles” that would prevent the rebel leadership from accessing the frozen assets, which reportedly totals about $30 billion.
In Clinton’s press statement, she noted that there were legal issues being worked out but that official recognition would enable the rebel leadership to access funding. According to a New York Times report, American officials said about $3.5 billion of the frozen assets are liquid. The remaining $26.5 billion consists of Libyan property in the United States.
As the Libyan civil war drags into its fifth month, the rebel forces desperately need money to finance their uprising. But military analysts say a financial windfall is unlikely to hasten victory on the battlefield. Despite NATO bombing, the rebels lack the training and organization to defeat Qaddafi’s forces quickly.
Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to the international community to support the efforts of U.N. Special Envoy to Libya Abdul Elah al-Khatib, whose task is to resolve the Libyan crisis through direct talks between the two sides.
“Finding a political solution to the crisis in Libya remains our top priority and our efforts have intensified,” Ban said in a message sent to the Libyan Contact Group meeting in Turkey.
He added that the United Nations continues to plan for peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction in Libya.