U.S. Invites Libyan Opposition to Set up Formal Diplomatic Office in D.C.

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports: It’s not the formal recognition the Libyan opposition has been begging for, but during a visit to Benghazi this week, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman offered the Transitional National Council (TNC) the opportunity to establish a formal representative office in D.C. The opposition group accepted.

“This is another chance to clarify and to take our relationship and to formalize it a bit more that we have an office here in Washington,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters today.

To date, the opposition has been represented by Col. Gadhafi’s former ambassador to D.C., Ali Aujali, who resigned once the uprising began. The State Department said today that its relationship with Aujali prior to this week was “informal.”

Aujali did not immediately return calls for comment.

The U.S. has been represented in Benghazi by diplomat Chris Stevens, who arrived in Eastern Libya in early April to gauge the intentions of the budding opposition.

Toner said today there are no plans yet to establish a formal American diplomatic office in the rebel stronghold.

The TNC has been pleading for the Obama administration to formally recognize them as the official representative of the Libyan people, in part because they say that would make it easier for them to claim access to Gadhafi’s frozen funds.

During a visit to Washington two weeks ago, the interim head of the TNC, Dr. Mahmoud Jibril, warned that the Libyan rebels would run out of money in about 4-5 weeks unless they got access to Gadhafi’s money.

-- Kirit Radia

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