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Libyan Opposition to Open Office in Washington, Says Official

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman at a press conference in the Libyan rebel stronghold eastern city of Benghazi on May 24, 2011

The general secretary of Libya’s opposition Transitional National Council [TNC] says his group will soon open an office in Washington, as pressure mounts on Moammar Gadhafi to step down and cede power.

Abdul Karim said he is encouraged by the international community’s support and recognition of the TNC’s legitimacy.

“We are optimistic and happy that our movement [and] our revolution is [chalking] success everyday and [that] we get more respect and understanding from the international [community],” said Karim.

His comments came after US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, said the TNC has accepted an invitation from President Barack Obama to open an office in Washington.

The opposition leader said the international support comes with additional duties.

“When they [US] give us this chance as a legitimate political party, this will give us more responsibility towards the other part, which is under the control of Gadhafi,” he said.

Karim expressed hope that Libyans will soon be free from Gadhafi’s “dictatorship” to freely express themselves without fear of reprisals.

While in the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Assistant Secretary of State Feltman said the United States is no longer speaking with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

He also said the US considered the opposition council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, stopping short of granting formal recognition to the TNC.

The high-ranking US diplomat was on a three-day visit to Libya and is the most senior administration official to visit the country since the anti-Gadhafi uprising began in February.

The diplomatic invitation comes as NATO warplanes rocked the Libyan capital, Tripoli, with some of its heaviest airstrikes yet.

Gadhafi recently called for a ceasefire and negotiations provided NATO ends its bombardment. In a televised speech, Gadhafi said, “We were the first to welcome a ceasefire and we were the first to accept a ceasefire… but the crusader NATO attack has not stopped.”

Meanwhile, South African President Jacob Zuma, representing the African Union, is scheduled to hold talks with Gadhafi next week.