Germany has given official recognition to the Libyan National Transitional Council, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle announced on Monday. It comes as fighting within the country intensifies and NATO steps up its attacks.
"The NTC is the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people," Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle quotes the foreign minister as telling reporters after the meeting with the council’s officials in the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi. "We want a free Libya, in peace and democracy without Muammar Gaddafi."
Westerwelle, accompanied by German Development Minister Dirk Niebel, made an unannounced visit to the city of Bengazi as they traveled to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Abdel Hafiz Gogha, the NTC's vice chairman, welcomed the German decision to join France, Italy, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and other states in recognizing the rebel council.
Germany is not participating in NATO airstrikes on Libya and abstained in the UN vote authorizing a no-fly zone. However, it has called for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to go.
Meanwhile, there come reports of fierce fighting during which Libyan government forces wrested control from the rebels of the city of Zawiya – just 30 kilometers from the capital.
Colonel Gaddafi, however, has vowed once again he will stay in Libya to the bitter end, stressing that “it is his motherland and the land where his children and his grandchildren died”.
He made the remarks over a game of chess with the visiting President of the World Chess Federation, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, on Sunday.
After the event, which was broadcast on state TV, the chess master expressed his shock at the scale of destruction in the capital Tripoli and quoted Gaddafi as saying that he does not understand what post he has to quit.
“I am neither a prime minister, nor a president or a king. I do not hold any post in Libya and hold no position which I should quit,” Gaddafi reportedly said.
It comes as NATO is pressing on with military operations in the country. On Sunday they stepped up bombing of Gaddafi's compound in the center of Tripoli, along with a military airport in eastern Tripoli.
US radio host and peace activist Ralph Schoenman says the Libyan opposition's cause has been hijacked by the interests of a few concerned nations.
“It’s a complete subordinate oppositional group now that is being funded and armed by the NATO powers and the US,” he says. “Their objective is to seize the 44.2 billion barrels of oil reserves. It’s a genocidal war in all its features. The target is the population at large, not merely the Gaddafi regime.”
Adrian Pabst, a lecturer at the University of Kent , believes Germany’s recognition of the rebel National Transitional Council is as a belated move.
"But at least it shows that the German government realized its previous stance of just sitting on the fence and somehow abstaining isn’t really working,” he said.
Commenting on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s chess game and his calmness despite the circumstances, Pabst believes that the colonel is suffering from dangerous delusions.
“He does think of himself as somehow untouchable,” Pabst said. “And it’s very clear that in the end all dictators, all autocrats, all tyrants sooner or later either are removed by their own people or somehow removed by outside forces. Very few survive until their physical death in old age. And I think the same will happen with Gaddafi. Either he will be betrayed, or some attack by NATO will be successful in either injuring him or, indeed, in killing him.”