Libyan rebel leaders hold White House talks


President Barack Obama gave his stamp of approval to Libya’s anti-Gaddafi forces bringing leaders of the rebel group to the White House where they were deemed credible and legitimate.

At the White House for meetings with national security adviser Tom Donilon was a delegation from Libya’s rebel Transitional Council, led by Mahmoud Jebril.

Jebril made a plea on Thursday for the United States to free up some of the billions of dollars in Libyan assets frozen by the United States and its allies in response to the Libyan government’s violent crackdown against opposition forces, Reuters reports.

After three months of heavy fighting, rebels aligned against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are in control of the east of the country while Gaddafi’s forces control the capital, Tripoli, and nearly all of the west.

White House spokesman Jay Carney called the Transitional Council “a credible and legitimate interlocutor for the Libyan people.”

The question of official U.S. recognition of the council as the representative of the Libyan people is still under review, he said, “and we are continuing to assess the capabilities of the TNC as we deepen our engagement with the opposition.”

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Jebril and his delegation had wide-ranging talks at the State Department, but indicated that no decisions had been reached on either official recognition or disbursing new money.

He said the United States was aware of the need to make funds available to alleviate the “dire humanitarian situation” in Libya and to help the TNC with operational costs, but that mechanisms were still being discussed.

Obama held talks with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen about Libya, and they pledged that “as long as the Gaddafi regime continues to attack its own population, NATO will maintain its operations to protect civilians.”