U.S. Names Chris Stevens Liaison to Libyan Opposition

By Dschabner

Mar 14, 2011 10:07pm

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports:

The Obama administration’s new liaison with the Libyan opposition will be diplomat Chris Stevens, who had been the number two official at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli until it was suspended when fighting began last month, according to two U.S. officials.

Stevens attended Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's meeting in Paris tonight with representatives of the Libyan opposition, as did the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz, who has also had contacts with the opposition.

President Obama told reporters Friday that his administration would appoint an official to maintain contact with the budding Libyan opposition, but officials had not revealed who it would be.

The United States has yet to follow France’s lead in officially recognizing the Libyan opposition.

Clinton told a Senate hearing last week that the United States was still trying to understand the makeup and intentions of the Libyan opposition based in the eastern city of Benghazi and led by the former justice minister.

“We are working to understand who is legitimate, who is not. But it is premature in our opinion to recognize one group or another,” Clinton said on March 2.

“I think it’s important to recognize that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the motives, the opportunism if you will, of people who are claiming to be leaders right now,” she added.

U.S. officials traveling with Clinton say following her meeting tonight she had a better idea of the opposition.

“Secretary Clinton met with Mahmoud Jibril for 45 minutes tonight.  They had a private and candid conversation about ways in which the United States can assist the Libyan people in their efforts against the Qadhafi regime,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines told reporters.

A U.S. official, who would not speak for attribution, said Clinton discussed what the United States can do to help the opposition and that Clinton said the United States would do more than just provide humanitarian aid, but she did not get into specifics.

Before the meeting a spokeswoman for the opposition told ABC News their representatives planned to press Clinton to do more, including imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.

The U.N. Security Council met today and discussed whether to authorize no-fly zone. The Obama administration has hesitated to support such a measure.

– Kirit Radia

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