x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Qatar joins France to recognise Libya's rebels

A day after the Provisional Transitional National Council announced an oil contract with Qatar, Doha, which has warplanes taking part in strikes on Muammar Qaddafi's forces, recognised the rebel council as Libya's sole legitimate representative.

DOHA // Qatar has became the second country after France to recognise Libya's rebel council as its "sole legitimate representative." The announcement came a day after the council announced an oil contract with Doha.

The Provisional Transitional National Council (PTNC) "represents Libya and its people, grouping representatives of all the country's regions with the acceptance of Libya's people", a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Libyan state television lashed out at Qatar for the recognition, saying the move amounted to "blatant interference" in Libyan affairs.

Qatar, which has warplanes taking part in UN and Arab League-backed air strikes to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, "decided to recognise the PTNC as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people", the spokesman said.

In a screen caption, the state television channel said Qatar, which it called "a statelet", had no right to question the unity of the Libyan nation by recognising the council.

The council, a 31-member body representing major cities and towns, said on Sunday that rebel-held eastern Libya was already producing crude oil.

Ali Tarhoni, the rebel representative charged with the economy, finance and oil, said the PTNC has signed a contract for Qatar to market the crude, adding that he expected exports to start in "less than a week".

Qatar Petroleum, the country's state oil company, has so far declined to confirm the deal.

Mr Tarhoni said the deal he had signed with Qatar would help ensure "access to liquidity in terms of foreign denominated currency".

"We have an escrow account and the money will be deposited in this account, and this way there is no middle man and we know where the money is going," he said.

In the coalition air campaign against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, Qatar on Sunday completed its contribution with three Mirage 2000-5 warplanes arriving at a base in Crete, alongside three French Mirage jets.

The deployment doubled Qatar's strength to six aircraft.