Libyan opposition leader meets French president

AP News
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Posted: May 14, 2011 1:54 PM
Libyan opposition leader meets French president

French President Nicolas Sarkozy met Saturday with a Libyan opposition leader amid questions about the death of a French military contractor in a Libyan rebel stronghold.

The meeting also came amid questions about the future U.S. role in the NATO air campaign against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces. U.S. officials in Washington met Friday with Mahmoud Jibril, top representative of the Libyan Transitional National Council, before he came to Paris.

Neither Sarkozy nor Jibril spoke after their meeting Saturday in Paris.

France has been a major backer of the rebels and has played a leading role in the NATO campaign.

The friendly French relationship with the rebels came in for a jolt this week, when the director of a French military contracting company was killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi _ hours before he was supposed to meet with Jibril's transitional government.

The French government has been tightlipped about the circumstances surrounding the death of Pierre Marziali, head and founder of SECOPEX Conseil.

A rebel commander said Marziali was killed in an accidental discharge of a weapon as he was arguing about his team getting arrested. A statement from the rebels' transitional government Friday said four Frenchmen with Marziali were arrested for alleged "illicit activities that jeopardized the security of free Libya."

SECOPEX says its director was in Libya to set up a security guard service and a "secure corridor" on the road to Cairo.

The ragtag rebel army has sought more international military aid, but France and other NATO allies have resisted sending in ground troops.

After Jibril's visit to Washington on Friday, the White House said the U.S. and NATO will continue military operations in Libya as long as Gadhafi keeps attacking his people.