Video: Libyan rebels gain legitimacy

updated 7/15/2011 6:54:54 PM ET 2011-07-15T22:54:54

More than 30 nations, including the United States, on Friday declared that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's regime is no longer legitimate and formally recognized Libya's main opposition group as the country's government.

In a final statement following a meeting of the so-called Contact Group on Libya, the nations said: The "Gadhafi regime no longer has any legitimate authority in Libya," and Gadhafi and certain members of his family must go.

The group said it would deal with Libya's main opposition group — the National Transitional Council, or TNC — as "the legitimate governing authority in Libya" until an interim authority is in place.

The embattled leader, however, remained defiant and vowed to fight on. 

The recognition of the Libyan opposition as the legitimate government gives foes of Gadhafi a major financial and credibility boost. Diplomatic recognition of the council means that the U.S. will be able to fund the opposition with some of the more than $30 billion in Gadhafi-regime assets that are frozen in American banks.

Story: 'Business is good': How fuel smuggling keeps Gadhafi machine running

"The United States views the Gadhafi regime as no longer having any legitimate authority in Libya," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. "And so I am announcing today that, until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, and we will deal with it on that basis."

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private diplomatic conversations with the TNC and the other Contact Group members, said Friday's decision indicates strong support for TNC and that Gadhafi's time is up.

Story: Libya's mountain rebels drive toward Tripoli

The National Transitional Council won international recognition after it said it would abide by its commitments and find a way forward for a truly democratic Libyan government, the official said. The assurances included upholding the group's international obligations, pursuing a democratic reform process that is both geographically and politically inclusive, and dispersing funds for the benefit of the Libyan people.

Slideshow: Conflict in Libya (on this page)

The U.S. official said the recognition of TNC as the government of Libya would allow countries to help the opposition access additional funds. However, he stressed that more legal work needs to be done by some countries, including the U.S., and at the United Nations, to fully legalize that step.

Video: Heavy fighting in Libya (on this page)

The recognition does not mean that the U.S. diplomatic mission in the rebel-held city of Benghazi, Libya, is now an embassy. Titles of staff and names of offices would be decided in the coming days, the official said.

In addition to the U.S., the Contact Group on Libya includes members of NATO, the European Union and the Arab League.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Libyans live with 5 months of war

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  1. The 5-month-old Libyan rebellion against Col. Moammar Gadhafi's 41-year-rule has turned into the bloodiest of the "Arab Spring" uprisings convulsing the region. Libyans in eastern towns live somewhat peacefully but cannot escape the effects of the war. In Derna, many people claim government abuse and lack of freedom and opportunity once pushed youth toward violent international jihads, but now the trend has changed. Many young Derna men leave to fight on the rebel front or stay in the city in hope of future opportunity. (David Degner / www.IncendiaryImage.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. The small town of Beida is one of the first places where fighting broke out in the streets. Today its main square is filled each night with soccer games, music and plays commemorating the revolution.
    Photojournalist David Degner describes why he turned away from the fighting to cover Libya. (David Degner / www.IncendiaryImage.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. At a house on the edge of Shehat, a family leaves the door open, a common practice as neighbors constantly visit and help each other. Electricity is cut for a few hours every day, water delivery credit has stopped and hard currency has stopped circulating. The former government paid monthly sums to unemployed and underemployed. (David Degner / www.IncendiaryImage.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. The wall of a community room in Derna's main mosque commemorates locals killed by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces throughout the city's long history of rebellion. It includes the photos of political prisoners who died in a prison massacre, soldiers shot for refusing orders, rebels from a 1996 uprising and the youths who died in the past five months in Derna and at the rebel front. (David Degner / www.IncendiaryImage.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The Friday market in Shehat is divided into sections for livestock, fruits, vegetables, equipment and pigeons. Pigeons are a surprisingly popular hobby with the market, rivaling Cairo's in size, even though the local area is only a small fraction of Cairo's. Many other hobbies such as soccer, music and movies were systematically suppressed by the government out of fear of any personality cult that could rival leader Moammar Gadhafi. Soccer games were announced using just numbers; songs had to include references to Gadhafi, and artists who became too successful were given posts overseas. (David Degner / www.IncendiaryImage.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. On the edge of Sosa, a long way from any fighting, Libyan children dodge large waves and swim in the surf at the quiet port. (David Degner / www.IncendiaryImage.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Sosa has a large hotel built beside an archeological site, but tourism has dried up with the outbreak of fighting. Children play in the area once teeming with visitors. (David Degner / www.IncendiaryImage.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Shehat archaeological ruins are evidence of the Cyrenaica civilization that predated Islam in northern Africa. With no tourists around, the ruins serve locals as a park for picnickers and school groups. (David Degner / www.IncendiaryImage.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Outside Beida a farmer waters his family's pear and peach orchard. Libya had a large population of immigrant workers from the Middle East and eastern Asia, but the five-month-old revolution forced many to return home. (David Degner / www.IncendiaryImage.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A Derna conference for women's issues in the future Libyan constitution is one of the few places to hear dissenting voices about how women are treated by the government. There are many highly educated women in Libya. One group of professors said their master's level classes were 90 percent female, but it is hard for women to get jobs outside their homes. (David Degner / www.IncendiaryImage.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Most of eastern Libya suffers from rolling blackouts a few hours each day. A few businesses, like this Tobruk photo studio, have set up generators to continue working throughout the day. Rumors about ships with new shipments of gas for power plants are common and usually incorrect. (David Degner / www.IncendiaryImage.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Beida and Shehat Archeological Site Libya
    David Degner / www.IncendiaryImage.com
    Above: Slideshow (11) Libyans live with 5 months of war
  2. Image: A photo said to show people gathering during recent days' unrest in Benghazi, Libya. The content, date and location of the image could not be independently verified.
    AP
    Slideshow (81) Conflict in Libya

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