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Britain officially recognizes rebels

LONDON – Britain has ordered the Libyan Embassy’s remaining staff members to leave the country and has recognized the Libyan rebels’ ruling council as the only official representative of the North African nation, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday.

The eight staff members will follow Libyan Ambassador Omar Jelban, who was expelled in May. Five other embassy personnel were ordered out in March.

Hague stressed the British government’s support for the rebel Transitional National Council’s struggle to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, declaring: “The Libyan people can be assured that we will remain on their side for as long as it takes.”

Although Britain had previously made clear its support of the rebel council and has been participating in NATO airstrikes against Libyan forces, official recognition was not in place until Wednesday.

Hague also announced that frozen Libyan assets, including about $127 million belonging to the national oil company, would be released to pay for fuel needed in rebel-held territory and to aid Libyan students in Britain who have been left high and dry by the conflict in their homeland.