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Africa

France welcomes Libyan rebel council, UK in diplomatic bind

media Anti-Kadhafi protesters in Benghazi Friday Reuters

France has welcomed the formation of Libya’s rebel “National Council”, as Britain faces potential embarrassment over the alleged presence of a special forces unit in opposition-held territory.

The National Council met in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday and declared itself the only representative body for the whole country.

THE BATTLE FOR LIBYA

Paris “pledges support for the principles that motivate it and the goals it has set itself”, French foreign ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero said Sunday, although the declaration stopped short of derecognition of Moamer Kadhafi and his government.

France welcomes "the will for unity that led to the creation of this council and urges its leaders and the movements within it to continue to pursue this course," Valero said.

Europe and France cannot allow Kadhafi's "criminal folly" in dealing with the uprising, new French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said during a visit Sunday to Cairo Sunday.

He also affirmed his country's commitment to Egypt.

The British government has refused to confirm or deny reports in the Sunday Times newspaper that a unit of the elite Special Air Service and a diplomat have been detained in the east of the country.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said that “a small British diplomatic team” was in Benghazi and said the government was in touch with them.

The group’s uninvited appearance angered opposition figures, who ordered that they be locked up in a military base, the Sunday Times reported.

The opposition feared that Kadhafi could use their presence as evidence of Western interference to rally patriotic support, the paper said, adding that a British source said that the group wanted to make contact with the rebels to prepare for a visit by a senior diplomat.

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