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Libyan Rebel Delegation to Visit White House on Friday

Dan Robinson | White House May 12, 2011

Representatives of Libya's Transitional National Council will visit the White House on Friday. The Libyan rebel representatives will sit down with President Barack Obama's national security advisor.

The White House put out a brief written statement saying National Security Advisor Tom Donilon would meet Friday afternoon with Dr. Mahmoud Jibril, who is heading the delegation from the Libyan Transitional National Council.

There was no indication that the president plans to join the meeting, though Press Secretary Jay Carney hedged a bit on this, saying he did not know whether others may or may not be part of the meeting.

Carney said the U.S. sees the council as a "credible and legitimate interlocutor" for the Libyan people and opposition to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. But in response to a reporter's question, he said Washington believes it is too early for any formal U.S. recognition of the council.

"We appreciate the statements that Transitional National Council has made with regard to renouncing violence, and al-Qaida, and embracing democratic reforms," said Carney. "If the question is recognizing the TNC as the official government of Libya, I think that is premature."

Britain this week invited the Libyan opposition to open an office in London, a decision announced by Prime Minister David Cameron after he met with the head of the Transitional National Council.

The Libyan rebel delegation visiting Washington met with Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry said he is drafting legislation that would authorize the frozen assets of Gadhafi to be transferred to the rebel council.

At Thursday's White House briefing, Carney was asked whether National Security Advisor Donilon would be discussing some of the more specific requests of the Libyan rebels, including for weapons, in the meeting on Friday.

"Mr. Donilon will listen, and looks forward to listening, to what Dr. Mahmoud Jibril has to say, on a range of issues," said Carney. "This is a substantive, serious meeting and he looks forward to it, but I don't have any policy change announcements to make for you from here."

Meanwhile, the White House is still providing only broad guidance about the major address Obama is to deliver about the political changes and popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

Carney told reporters that the address will not be directed only at the Muslim world. He said the president will speak "broadly" about "remarkable changes" in the region in a short period of time.

Asked about continuing violence against protesters, particularly in Syria and Libya, the president's spokesman urged all governments in the region to refrain from violence and engage with their citizens for political reform.

Carney summed up the message he said the U.S. is sending to governments in the region - and one Obama may sound in his address - saying "further repression will lead only to further and greater instability."

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