April 1, 2011 / 9:50 AM / in 9 years

UN envoy arrives in rebel stronghold for talks

BENGHAZI (Reuters) - The U.N. special envoy to Libya Abdelilah al-Khatib arrived in Benghazi on Friday to meet officials of the rebels’ provisional council, rebel officials said.

“He is coming to Benghazi to see the transitional national council about the situation and the needs of the people. We hope he will see for himself the effect on east Libya,” Salah Hedin, a senior member of the council’s foreign affairs committee, told Reuters.

Hedin was part of a welcoming party waiting for the envoy at an abandoned military airfield outside Benghazi. The party included a U.N. security detail and armed rebel militiamen.

Hedin said al-Khatib would stay in Benghazi for about four hours and that the visit was a follow-up to the London meeting. He said it was his second visit to the rebel-held region and he was in Tobruk 10 days ago.

Ali Tarhouni, a U.S.-based academic in charge of finance and economics for the interim government, told Reuters as he headed into the meeting with al-Khatib: “He’s here for a first-hand look to assess everything — the council, the people.”

“We want the continued support of allied forces,” Tarhouni said. “The main thing we need is recognition of the national council as the legitimate government and the lifting of sanctions,” including on oil exports.

“We want to show we are putting our house in order and this will help with recognition,” he added.

Qatar became the first Arab country to recognise Libya’s rebels on Monday. France has also recognised the rebel council as representative of Libya.

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