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Italy recognizes rebels as speaking for Libya

 The new NATO commander of the international military operation in Libya, Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard meets journalists at NATO headquarters, i...
 The new NATO commander of the international military operation in Libya, Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, meets the journalists at NATO headquarters, in Ba...
 The new NATO commander of the international military operation in Libya, Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, arrives at a press conference at NATO headquarter...
 Libyan National Transitional Council's Foreign Minister Ali al-Essawi, left, and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, during a press conference,...
 Libyan National Transitional Council's Foreign Minister Ali al-Essawi, left, and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini greet each other, during a ...
 Libyan National Transitional Council's Foreign Minister Ali al-Essawi, talks during a press conference with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini,...

Italy Libya Diplomacy

The new NATO commander of the international military operation in Libya, Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard meets journalists at NATO headquarters, i...

Italy Libya Diplomacy

The new NATO commander of the international military operation in Libya, Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, meets the journalists at NATO headquarters, in Ba...

APTOPIX Italy Libya Diplomacy

The new NATO commander of the international military operation in Libya, Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, arrives at a press conference at NATO headquarter...

Italy Libya Diplomacy

Libyan National Transitional Council's Foreign Minister Ali al-Essawi, left, and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, during a press conference,...

Italy Libya Diplomacy

Libyan National Transitional Council's Foreign Minister Ali al-Essawi, left, and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini greet each other, during a ...

Italy Libya Diplomacy

Libyan National Transitional Council's Foreign Minister Ali al-Essawi, talks during a press conference with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini,...

Italy recognized the Libyan opposition council on Monday as the only legitimate voice in the North African nation, dismissing a diplomatic push by Moammar Gadhafi's government to discuss an end to the fighting.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said any solution to the Libyan conflict must involve the departure of Gadhafi and his family, and he met in Rome with the Libyan National Transitional Council's foreign envoy, Ali al-Essawi.
Italy is the third country, after France and Qatar, to give diplomatic recognition to the council, which is based in rebel-held eastern Libya.
"We have decided to recognize the council as the only political, legitimate interlocutor to represent Libya," Frattini told reporters. He said he will send an envoy to rebel-held Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, in the coming days.
Frattini also did not rule out delivering weapons to the Libyan rebels. He said that would be a last-resort measure "since we cannot fight on the ground," but one that would not contradict the U.N. Security Council resolution that imposed a no-fly zone over Libya and called for the protection of civilians there.
Frattini met with al-Essawi as a Gadhafi envoy was traveling around Europe seeking support. The envoy, Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi, a former Libyan prime minister, told Greece's prime minister that Gadhafi was seeking a way out of the crisis. The envoy arrived Monday in Turkey for talks with senior officials, Turkey's Anatolia news agency said, and plans to travel later to Malta.
But Frattini, who said he spoke with Greece's foreign minister, said al-Obeidi's proposals were "not credible."
"Any solution for the future of Libya has a precondition: that Gadhafi's regime leaves ... that Gadhafi himself and the family leave the country," Frattini said.
Al-Essawi said one possible idea _ replacing Gadhafi with one of his sons _ was not acceptable, saying "they are the leaders of the military operations against Libyans."
A Greek Foreign Ministry official said the idea of Gadhafi leaving or staying "was not an issue of discussion" during the talks Sunday night.
"They want to negotiate and are willing to speak of a political solution," said the official, who asked for anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the talks.
Although British and French officials were less candid than their Italian counterparts, there was scant enthusiasm at the prospects of Gadhafi's sons having a role in Libya's future.
Steve Field, the spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron, said Monday that the U.K. had not publicly demanded that Gadhafi's family be prevented from seeking a role in Libya's future. But he said the Libyan people would likely reject any attempts by Gadhafi's sons or other members of the dictator's inner circle to join a transitional government.
French officials echoed the British remarks.
"It's up to the Libyan people to define the conditions of the transition. We note a multiplication of defections from the immediate entourage of Gadhafi, and in consequence, his growing isolation," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said when asked about proposals that Gadhafi's sons be involved in any political transition.
One son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, spent several years in London trying to build his image of a democratic reformer by studying at the London School of Economics, earning a doctorate, hobnobbing with former British officials and making key business contacts.
He claimed in a televised interview last month that Libya had helped fund French President Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign. Sarkozy's office has fiercely denied any such funding.
Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, did not have an immediate comment, saying "it's impossible to have a clear position on a situation that is unclear."
Italy, a former colonial ruler of Libya which lies across the Mediterranean from it, has offered air bases and its own military forces to support the NATO-led military operation in Libya.
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Torchia reported from Ankara. Associated Press Writers Paisley Dodds and David Stringer in London, Elena Becatoros in Athens, Angela Charlton in Paris and Don Melvin in Brussels contributed to this report.