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May 05, 2011

France Expels 14 Libyan Diplomats

France announced plans to expel 14 Libyan diplomats on Friday, a day after Britain ordered two Libyan officials to leave.

The French foreign ministry says the diplomats, who back Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, have been declared "persona non grata." The ministry says they have been given up to 48 hours to leave France.

France formally recognized Libya's rebel movement after anti-government unrest erupted in the country.  

On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague ordered the expulsion of two diplomats from Libya, saying their behavior had become "unacceptable."

Also Thursday, an international conference was held on Libya during which nations pledged millions of additional dollars in non-military assistance Libyan rebels and civilians.

Members of the 22-nation Libya Contact Group agreed in Rome to set up an internationally monitored fund to help support the rebel Transitional National Council.

Kuwait pledged $180 million, while Qatar promised at least $400 million more.  The United States said it would take steps to free up a small part of the $30 billion in Libyan state assets frozen in the U.S. and use it for humanitarian aid in Libya's rebel-held territories.

Meanwhile, a ship carrying at least 800 evacuees from Libya's besieged city of Misrata docked in the eastern rebel stronghold, Benghazi, on Thursday. The International Organization for Migration had chartered the vessel.  The group says as many as 50 wounded civilians were on board.

Relief workers on the ship say they waited offshore for three days as NATO minesweepers finished searching for explosives drifting in Misrata's harbor.  Pro-Gadhafi forces planted the mines last week.