Germany on Monday gave official recognition to Libya's rebels, amid a surge in fighting across the country and as the US pressed African states to demand that strongman Moamer Gaddafi step down.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said after meeting rebel leaders in their capital Benghazi that Germany recognises their National Transitional Council as the "legitimate representative" of the Libyan people. "We want a free Libya, in peace and democracy without Gaddafi," he added.
Germany becomes the 13th nation to recognise the NTC as "legitimate representative," after Australia, Britain, France, Gambia, Italy, Jordan, Malta, Qatar, Senegal, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. Berlin abstained from a UN Security Council resolution vote on March 17 backing intervention in Libya and chose not to join the NATO-led air war in support of the rebels.
But German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere said last week his country would be ready to consider sending peacekeeping troops to Libya if and when Gaddafi falls.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday pressed all African states to demand Gaddafi's departure. "I urge all African states to call for a genuine ceasefire and to call for Gaddafi to step aside," she said during a visit to the African Union headquarters's in Addis Ababa. Gaddafi remains adamant he will not step down, according to the head of the World Chess Federation Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who said that during a game of chess in Tripoli on Sunday the strongman insisted he had no position of power to relinquish.
"I am neither premier nor president nor king. I do not hold any post in Libya and therefore I have no position which I should give up," Ilyumzhinov quoted Gaddafi as telling him during a two-hour meeting and the chess game. The chessboard encounter came as fighting between Gaddafi's forces and rebels raged across Libya, with casualties reported in the western town of Zintan and the strategic oil hub of Brega in the east.