On July 15, 2011, the United States recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the legitimate government of Libya. The move undercut dictator Muammar Qaddafi's claim to power and made it possible for the TNC to access frozen Libyan funds in foreign countries.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the announcement in Istanbul, Turkey, after a meeting with the Libyan Contact Group. The U.S. and 30 other countries made the milestone diplomatic move after receiving assurances that the TNC would work toward democratic government in the North African country.
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The TNC became the guiding body of Libyan rebels after protests against Qaddafi's 42-year-old dictatorial regime broke out in mid-February as part of the so-called "Arab Spring" of 2011. Violence between anti-government forces and loyal Qaddafi troops see-sawed across northern Libya for a month. After Qaddafi pledged to lay waste to Benghazi -- the rebels' base -- and annihilate the protestors, the United Nations approved military intervention.
On March 19, the U.S. and allied N.A.T.O. countries began a military intervention. While not officially recognizing the TNC as legitimate at that point, the N.A.T.O. forces sought to prevent Qaddafi from turning the rebellion into the bloodbath he promised. They quickly established a "no-fly zone" which kept Qaddafi's air force out of the sky. N.A.T.O. forces also pummeled Qaddafi's command and control facilities, enabling rebel troops to make progress.
France recognized the TNC as legitimate in March. The U.S. and other N.A.T.O. countries stopped short, however U.S. President Barack Obama quickly called for Qaddafi to relinquish power. Fighting, however, continued into summer.
In announcing the recognition of the TNC Clinton said, "We heard from the TNC about its plans for setting Libya on a path toward security and progress in the post-Qadhafi era. The TNC gave us important assurances regarding its intention to pursue democratic reform that is inclusive geographically and politically, and to uphold Libya's international obligations and to disburse funds in a transparent manner, to address the humanitarian and other needs of the Libyan people."
She added that the U.S. regarded Qaddafi's regime as "no longer having legitimate authority in Libya."