Germany recognises Libya rebels


Germany today recognised Libya's rebel council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. lending heavyweight support to the leaders poised to run the country if Muammar Gadafy falls.

The recognition, voiced by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on a visit to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, is significant because Germany has been reluctant to be drawn into the Libyan conflict and opted out of Nato military action.

"We share the same goal - Libya without Gadafy," Mr Westerwelle told a news conference in Benghazi after meeting members of the rebel National Transitional Council, seen by many as a government-in-waiting.

"The national council is the legitimate representative of the Libyan people," Mr Westerwelle said, to applause from Libyans who were listening to him speak.

A senior rebel official welcomed the German decision to join France, Italy, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and other states in recognising the rebel council. "It is a very big step and we appreciate it," said Abdel Hafiz Gogha, the council's vice chairman.

The United Arab Emirates said it had recognised the rebel council, based in Benghazi, joining a small but growing list of states that view the council as Libya's legitimate representatives.

Six rockets hit an oil refinery at the city of Misrata controlled by rebels, a witness said today. The rockets appeared to have hit the refinery's power generators and did not strike its oil storage facilities, the witness added.

Libyan state television reported today the Nato-led military alliance was bombarding targets in the town of Al Jufrah in central Libya.

Elsewhere, rebels said they were repulsed by Gadafy forces in a battle to retake the eastern oil town of Brega.

In the west, rebels said they were fighting Col Gadafy's forces for a second day in the town of Zawiyah yesterday, bringing the revolt against his rule closer to the capital.

The fresh outbreak of fighting in Zawiyah, west of Tripoli and home to a big oil refinery, marks the closest the armed rebellion has come to Col Gadafy's stronghold in the capital for months.

Libyan state television broadcast images of Col Gadafy - who has been keeping a low profile since Nato began its air strikes - meeting Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the international chess federation.

Mr Ilyumzhinov, quoted by Russian news agencies, said he played a game of chess in Tripoli with the Libyan leader, who told him he had no intention of leaving his country.

Col Gadafy has called the Nato intervention with warplanes and attack helicopters an act of colonial aggression aimed at grabbing Libya's plentiful oil.