The Libyan leader responds to claims by the Italian foreign minister in an audio statement aired on state television.
A senior leader of the Libyan opposition council has met French president Nicolas Sarkozy for talks in a bid to garner further international support for the fight against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Mahmoud Jibril, who serves as the foreign minister of the opposition Transitional National Council, met Sarkozy in Paris on Saturday, for a discussion on the prospects for a political transition in Libya.
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Sarkozy and the French prime minister, Francois Fillon, welcomed Jibril on the steps of the Elysee Palace, the president’s official residence. No statement was released after their talks.
France has been taking part, along with other international forces under NATO command, in air strikes on Libyan government sites in an effort to protect the country’s civilian population.
The meeting on Saturday came a day after Jibril met Tom Donilon, the US president’s national security adviser, at the White House in Washington, DC.
The White House called the council “legitimate and credible”, but stopped short of granting full diplomatic recognition to the opposition.
“During the meeting, Mr Donilon stated that the United States views the [council] as a legitimate and credible interlocutor of the Libyan people,” the White House said in a statement, released after the meeting.
“In contrast, Mr Donilon stressed that [Libyan leader Muammar] Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy to rule and reiterated [US] President [Barack] Obama’s call for Gaddafi to leave immediately,” it said.
Obama did not meet with the opposition leaders.
“Mr Donilon and Dr Jibril discussed how the United States and the coalition can provide additional support to the [council]. Mr Donilon applauded the [council’s] commitment to an inclusive political transition and a democratic future for Libya,” the statement concluded.
‘Town hall’ meeting
The recognition fell short of what the council had sought. In an op-ed published in the New York Times ahead of his meetings in Washington, Jibril had written that the council was seeking to be recognised as the “sole” legitimate representative of the Libyan people.
|Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna sheds light on Libyan opposition’s push for international recognition|
The White House, however, has signalled that such a move would be premature.
“I don’t anticipate action like that,” Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said.
Meanwhile in the rebel-held Libyan city of Benghazi, opposition leaders met for what was billed as a “town hall” meeting to discuss the uprising.
Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Benghazi, said the meetings were “part of an ongoing attempt to organise the body as a functioning, legitimate and transparent representative of the Libyan people”.
The political developments came as Libyan opposition fighters announced they were gaining ground in their battle against forces loyal to Gaddafi.
The opposition said its fighters had taken over the town of Ad-Dafniyah, and were advancing towards Zintan, which is west of the city of Misurata.
NATO has been intensifying air strikes in several areas of Libya against Gaddafi’s troops in a bid to weaken his campaign against the uprising.
But in an audio message, broadcast on state television on Friday, Gaddafi said NATO bombs would not reach him.
Hours after Gaddafi’s minute-long speech, the sound of four explosions, most likely caused by a NATO strike, could be heard in Tripoli.
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Government spokesman Ibrahim Uthman said the strikes targeted the country’s agriculture ministry. The same building, however, was targeted days ago and, at the time, residents said it was a government intelligence building.
Shortly before Gaddafi’s remarks were broadcast, regime spokesman Moussa Ibrahim claimed that a NATO air strike in Brega had targeted a meeting of dozens of clerics and officials from around Libya, a claim NATO denies.
Ibrahim said 11 imams were killed in their sleep at a guesthouse, and 50 people were wounded, including five in critical condition.
The alliance, responding to the claim, said it had attacked a military command-and-control centre, and that it could “not independently confirm the validity” of claims of civilian casualties.
“We’re very careful in the selection of our targets and this one was very clearly identified as a command centre,” said an official at NATO’s operational headquarters in Naples, Italy, who spoke under the alliance’s rules that he could not be named.