The leader of Libya’s rebellion has warned countries that have failed to support the uprising against Muammer Gaddafi that they would be denied access to Libya’s vast oil riches if the regime is deposed.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the opposition National Council, told the Financial Times that any post-Gaddafi leadership would adjust Libya’s oil policies “according to the positions countries are taking towards Libya in these difficult times”.
The threat came as forces loyal to the Gaddafi regime continued to push back rebel fighters in eastern Libya on Sunday, driving them out of the strategic oil town of Brega. The retreat marked the latest setback for the opposition, heightening concerns over an advance on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
Many rebels argue that it will be impossible to defeat their better-equipped adversaries without some form of international intervention.
Mr Abdel Jalil’s warning appeared to be directed at countries such as China and Russia, which have been reluctant to support rebel pleas for an internationally imposed no-fly zone over Libya.
The US and allies welcomed an Arab League statement endorsing the no-fly zone, but Washington insists that such a plan remains a contingency.
France and Qatar, by contrast, are seen as close supporters. France was the first western country to recognize the Benghazi-based National Council, while Qatar has played a crucial role in leading Arab opposition to the Gaddafi regime.
France said it would step up diplomatic efforts ahead of today’s Group of 8 foreign ministers meeting in Paris.
Mr Abdel Jalil said: “We are looking for the international community to shoulder its responsibility and impose a no-fly zone, and restrictions on the ships so that no more weapons are used against civilians.”
He also called for limited air strikes on regime targets, but made clear that the rebels would reject any move to place foreign soldiers on Libyan soil.