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MONROVIA (Reuters) - Liberia severed diplomatic ties with Libya on Tuesday, the latest African country to distance itself from leader Muammar Gaddafi since a NATO-backed uprising against him.
The move, announced by the office of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, comes after Senegal received a delegation of Libyan rebel leaders last month and Mauritania's president was quoted last week as saying Gaddafi's departure was necessary.
"The Government took the decision after a careful review of the situation in Libya and determined that the Government of Colonel Gaddafi has lost the legitimacy to govern Libya," the statement from Sirleaf's office said.
"The violence against the Libyan people must stop," it said of its decision to withdraw the Liberian envoy from Tripoli and suspend activities of the Libyan representation in the Liberian capital Monrovia.
The statement said ties can be resumed when "the people of Libya reach a political settlement which offers the best hope of lasting peace".
Gaddafi has long used Libya's oil wealth to invest in poorer African countries in what analysts describe as a bid to win friends and strategic influence on the continent.
Libya has a $30 million project to promote local production of rice in Liberia, while a Libyan company is involved in the renovation of Monrovia's Ducor Hotel, the largest in the country and one of the few five-star hotels in Africa. However local officials said both projects were already at a standstill.
While there are signs that some African leaders are eyeing a post-Gaddafi Libya, others see that as premature. South African President Jacob Zuma criticised NATO on Tuesday for abusing its U.N. mandate in a bid to achieve what he called "regime change".