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France recognises Libya rebel group

France has become the first country to formally recognise the Libyan opposition's Interim Governing Council and confirm plans to exchange ambassadors.

The official announcement came after French President Nicolas Sarkozy met two representatives of the transitional council.

Mr Sarkozy was the first chief of state to meet representatives of the group from the eastern city of Benghazi, which was taken over by rebels in the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.

The European Parliament is encouraging EU member states to recognise the opposition government. The council representatives were in Strasbourg, the parliament's base, earlier this week.

However, EU policy is normally to recognise states, not governments.

Germany said it has frozen the assets of the Libyan Central Bank and other state-run agencies in an attempt to cut off funding to the Gaddafi regime.

German economy minister Rainer Bruederle said the total amount blocked is "in the billions."

He said the "measures are a clear reaction to the developments in Libya - the brutal suppression of the Libyan freedom movement can now no longer be financed from funds that are in German banks".

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