The Obama administration on Wednesday gave an official blessing to the chief Libyan opposition group, opening the way for closer ties but not necessarily recognition as the country's legitimate government.
Gene Cretz, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, said a U.S. diplomat sent to Libya to assess the opposition group, the Transitional National Council, had concluded that "it is a political body which is worthy of our support."
U.S. diplomats have been studying the rebel group for weeks, trying to discern its goals and whether it included militant Islamists or other dangerous elements.
Cretz told a State Department briefing for reporters in Washington that because of the new judgment the United States would encourage other countries to officially recognize the council and to offer more aid. France, Italy and Qatar already have recognized the group, rather than the regime led by Moammar Gadhafi, as Libya's legitimate government.
But Cretz said the administration continues to wrestle with whether it should offer recognition of the council.
He said the issue involved a number of complicated legal questions, such as whether the council meets the legal definition of a government, and whether recognition of the group would be consistent with American diplomatic precedent. "We're a very legalistic country," he said.
In Brussels, the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid said the shelling of the Misrata port has worsened the already bad humanitarian situation in the besieged rebel-held city and that the 27-nation group has set aside more than $146 million to address pressing humanitarian needs. Misrata has become the focal point of the uprising against Gadhafi's regime, and the near-constant shelling of the city by government troops over the past two months has spurred calls for more forceful international intervention to stop the bloodshed.
Syria: The country ignored mounting international pressure to halt its bloody crackdown against antigovernment protesters, dispatching army reinforcements to the besieged southern town of Daraa and the Damascus suburb of Douma, while continuing to round up activists in other towns where demonstrations have occurred. Germany joined France, Britain and Italy in threatening sanctions unless President Bashar al-Assad's forces stop gunning down protesters, and the U.N. Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, agreed to a U.S. request for a special session Friday.
Yemen: Security forces opened fire on a massive anti-government demonstration in the capital of Sana, killing 12 protesters and wounding some 190.
Information from the Associated Press and Washington Post was used in this report.