NATO to establish official contact with Libyan opposition

NATO is set to send an envoy to Benghazi to establish official contact with the Libyan opposition which has its headquarters there, a diplomat from the Western military alliance said on Wednesday.

'We are going to establish a civilian contact point in Benghazi,' the source told the German Press Agency dpa.

The diplomat could not confirm the identity of the 'liaison officer' to be sent to Libya or when his mission would start.

'Details will be worked out later,' the source said.

The decision followed 'informal talks' NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen held with Libyan opposition envoy Mahmoud Jibril, on the sidelines of an international conference in Doha on April 13, the source added.

Speaking on Tuesday, the commander of NATO's military operation in Libya, Canadian General Charles Bouchard, touched upon the need for the alliance to secure better local intelligence.

'NATO does not have anybody on the ground, the information I receive is through various networks and organisations, ... I rely on press and media to tell us about the harm that is being brought on the population,' Bouchard told reporters.

While its bombing of Libyan military targets has been widely perceived as supporting the insurgency against Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi, NATO insists it is a neutral actor out to protect civilians, enforcing United Nations Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973.

So far, only France, Italy, Qatar and Gambia have recognized the Benghazi-based Interim Transitional National Council (ITNC) as Libya's official government.

[Source: Deutsche Presse Agentur, Monsters and Critics, Brussels, 27Apr11]

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