Acknowledging Libyan opposition as legitimate brings complications under international law
The Obama administration's announcement July 15 that the United States will now "recognize" the Libyan opposition as the legitimate government of Libya, while welcomed by those who have advocated this step, goes farther than many other countries have been willing to go and raises difficult questions under international law.
Meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, the thirty-two-country "Libya Contact Group"--which includes the United States--announced that "the Qaddafi regime no longer has any legitimate authority in Libya and that Qaddafi and certain members of his family must go." The statement went on to say that "until an interim authority is in place, participants agreed to deal with the National Transitional Council (NTC) as the legitimate governing authority in Libya." The fact that the statement says Contact Group members agreed to "deal with"--rather than "recognize"--the NTC as the legitimate government of Libya indicates that there remains disagreement among Contact Group members about the issue of recognition.
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went further, stating that the United States will "recognize" the NTC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, though she noted that "various legal issues remain to be worked through." This recognition allows the United States to unfreeze certain Libyan assets in U.S. banks and allow them to be used by the NTC. Clinton said that the United States has received assurances from the NTC--which includes former Libyan government officials, military leaders, businessmen, and others--regarding its "intention to pursue democratic reform that is inclusive geographically and politically, and to uphold Libya's international obligations and to disburse funds in a transparent manner, to address the humanitarian and other needs of the Libyan people."