Some of the representatives at the Libya Contct Group that met in Istanbul, Turkey on Friday
The rebels fighting to overthrow Libyan leader Muammar Al Qathafi, on Friday achieved a great victory its National Transitional Council based in Benghazi won recognition as the country's "legitimate authority" from the entire international Libya Contact Group co-ordinating policy on the crisis at its meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.
It was a major policy shift by the Libyan Contact Group in endorsing the Turkish peace plan that calls for a ceasefire and steps to ease Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi out of power. At the same time it granted Libyan rebels recognition as the country’s sole legitimate governing authority.
In a statement, to be formally issued at the end of the Istanbul meeting later on Friday, the group also urged "all relevant parties" to make efforts "for the formation of an interim government to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition of power," said
In the statement distributed by a delegation at the talks, it was stated that Al Qathafi "must leave power according to defined steps to be publicly announced."
A number of countries had already unilaterally recognised the NTC, based in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, as Libya's legitimate representative.
French foreign minister Alain Juppe told reporters that the contact group's recognition "means that we can now unfreeze certain Libyan state assets because it is the NTC that will henceforth exercise this responsibility."
The largely symbolic move at the Istanbul meeting of the group – one of a swath of political and economic measures designed to ratchet up pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Al Qathafi was announced by Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini.
He added that the contact group was also set to designate the UN special envoy for Libya, Abdel Ilah al-Khatib, as "the sole interlocuter" between the Al Qathafi regime and the rebels.
At the same meeting, the fourth since the crisis began, and hosted by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, held talks aimed at finding a political solution for Libya that, they say, would persuade Libyan leader Muammar Al Qathafi to give up power and end the five-month long conflict that could otherwise drag on interminably.
The Libya Contact Group was established at the London conference on March 29 to provide political guidance for the endeavors of the international community with a view to resolve the crisis in Libya.
It is made up of more than 30 governments and international and regional organisations from Western and Arab nations supporting NATO's mission in Libya, including NATO, the EU and the Arab League.s
Also present at the meeting were NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Addressing journalist, Frattini said: “The entire Libyan contact group decided to recognise the NTC as the legitimate authority of Libya. So (there is) no other option but for Al Qathafi to leave."
The recognition was to be officially announced when the meeting's final document is released later on Friday.
Britain, represented by its foreign minister William Hague also announced it was deploying four more fighter aircraft to take part in NATO's bombing campaign.
Meanwhile, diplomats billed the recognition move as a boost to the Benghazi-based rebel council, though it is legally complex since most contact group countries still maintain diplomatic relations with the Al Qathafi regime and most them still also have embassies in Tripoli and Libyan missions in their own capitals.
Britain has long said it regards the NTC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people but ihas also stated it recognises states, not governments.
A British foreign office spokesman said: "It's a strong signal of support for the NTC and reflects the growing consensus that it is increasingly competent. It is reaching out to Libyan people across the country and reinforces the point that Al Qathafi must go,"
For some countries the decision may have legal implications with regard to making Libyan state assets frozen by UN sanctions available to the NTC.
In a Turkish-drafted package, the United Nations envoy on Libya, Abdul-Elah al-Khatib of Jordan, is being authorised to present terms for Al Qathafi to leave power. The package will also include a cease-fire to halt fighting and usher in a political transition.
"Mr al-Khatib is entitled to present a political package including the ceasefire, and to negotiate with Tripoli and Benghazi to form a government of national unity," Frattini said.
Frattini said the UN envoy would work toward forming a board composed of three members from the rebels and three from the Libyan government so that a political process could be worked out.
At the meeting it was unclear whether the Libyan leader would be required to leave the country. AL Qathafi, wanted for crimes against humanity by the international criminal court, has repeatedly insisted he will not stand down.