Last week France formally recognized the Libyan National Council (the loosely organized head of the rebel forces) as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people. The U.S. hasn’t gone that far, but it’s taking a step in that direction by planning to appoint an envoy to the rebels, to be appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promptly. Talk of a no-fly zone has died down in the U.S., but this, combined with recent and more severe sanctions on the Qaddafi family, indicate a few steps in the rebels’ direction.
President Obama said Friday that he would appoint a special representative to Libya’s rebel leaders and that the Treasury Department had placed sanctions on nine more family members and friends of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in an effort to force the Libyan leader to resign.
Mr. Obama said the representative, who White House officials said would probably be chosen by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the next few days, would determine how the United States could help the Libyan opposition.
The move is significant because although the United States has not formally recognized the rebels as legitimate representatives of the Libyan people, the appointment of a special representative is bound to be interpreted as a move toward de facto recognition.
France was the first country to recognize the Libyan National Council, the rebels’ shadow government, as the representative of the Libyan people on Thursday, after a meeting between President Nicolas Sarkozy and two representatives of the movement, which has its headquarters in Benghazi, Libya.