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France, U.S. Reach Out to Rebels
Libya Suffers Diplomatic Blow as Paris Recognizes Opposition; Cautious Steps Toward Military Action
Rebels fire a rocket-propelled grenade at a Libyan air force jet Thursday in Ras Lanuf. Rebels said they fled the city after coming under heavy attack from forces loyal to Col. Gadhafi.
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By David Gauthier-Villars in Paris, Adam Entous in Washington and Charles Levinson in Benghazi, Libya
Updated March 11, 2011 12:01 am ET
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The U.S. and France dealt new diplomatic blows to Col. Moammar Gadhafi's government Thursday, but the international community stepped only gingerly toward taking military action against the Libyan strongman.
France formally recognized Libya's main opposition group, the first country to do so. The U.S. said it was suspending relations with the Libyan Embassy in Washington, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she would meet with members of Libyan rebel groups next week.
The stepped-up contacts inch the U.S. closer toward actively supporting the rebels. The White House has said the United Nations resolution against Libya imposed two weeks ago offered leeway to seek an exemption from the arms embargo to support the opposition.
At a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense ministers Thursday, countries agreed only to continue planning for imposing a no-fly zone, should one be required, that would keep Col. Gadhafi's air force from bombing rebel forces. The NATO ministers also agreed to move ships in the Mediterranean to better monitor events.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said some at the meeting felt NATO should take its lead from the U.N. and countries around North Africa. Mr. Gates and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO's secretary-general, said a no-fly zone would require additional U.N. authorization.
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