France to stand by Libyan rebels as NTC in turmoil over Yunis murder
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France will stand by Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) for the duration of their conflict with Moamer Kadhafi, Defence Minister Gérard Longuet said in an interview published Sunday, despite confusion over the assassination of rebel military chief General Abdel Fatah Yunis and the Nato campaign’s failure to dislodge the Libyan leader.
"We say to Kadhafi that we will not ease our pressure and to his opponents that we will not abandon them," Longuet told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, adding "we are signed up for the duration and are thereby facilitating a negotiated settlement" between Kadhafi's regime and the NTC.
France this week was the first member of the Nato alliance to suggest that Kadhafi might stay in the country as part of a negotiated deal and was later backed by the UK.
Longuet called on the population of Tripoli to “rise up” and said that other European countries – specifically naming “Spain, Germany and Poland” - should do more to help topple Kadhafi.
Four rebels were killed in clashes with a heavily armed pro-Kadhafi group in the rebel capital Benghazi overnight, NTC spokesperson Mahmud Shamman said on Sunday. The battle was long but ended with 31 of the group being arrested, he said.
Meanwhile, the Tripoli regime denied that Yunis was in contact with it at the time of his death but claimed to be in touch with leading NTC members, including the council’s number two, Mahmud Jibril.
NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jilil said on Saturday that a committee of four judges had summoned Yunis to Benghazi with the knowledge of the NTC executive but that they did not have the authority to do so and that he did not know why they had.
And the Union of Revolutionary Forces, a unified command structure of rebel forces, denied that Yunis passed information to the Kadhafi camp and said that the Islamist Obeida Ibn al-Jarah brigade, which has been blamed for the killing, was not in its ranks and was no longer fighting on the front near Brega.
Mustafa Rubaa, who belongs to the Union of Revolutionary Forces "as an individual" but not as part of a brigade, has been detained for his alleged role in the arrest of Yunis, spokesperson Fawzi Bukatif said.
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