France salutes Libyan rebels, reaffirms support
PARIS Aug 21 (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy paid tribute on Sunday to Libyan rebels battling Muammar Gaddafi's troops in and around the capital Tripoli and reaffirmed France's full support for their cause.
"At the moment when decisive events are taking place in the Tripoli region, in Tripoli itself, and elsewhere in Libya, the president salutes the courage of the rebel fighters and of the Libyan people who are rising up," Sarkozy's office said.
"He assures them once more of the full support of France to achieve the liberation of their country from oppression and dictatorship," it said in a statement.
Rebels have battled their way to within about 25 km (16 miles) of Tripoli's western edge to help fighters in the city who rose up overnight declaring a final showdown. Gaddafi dismissed them as "rats" and said he would not yield.
France spearheaded the West's military intervention in Libya and was the first foreign power to reject Gaddafi and formally recognise the rebels, whose latest advance appeared to signal the decisive phase in a bloody six-month conflict. (Reporting by Catherine Bremer; editing by Andrew Roche)
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