France Recognizes Rebels as Legitimate Representative of Libyan People

France today became the first country to recognize the Libyan National Council as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people, following a meeting between Nicolas Sarkozy and two representatives from the upstart government, the New York Times reports. France says it will soon engage ambassadors with the rebel group, which has set up camp in Benghazi. The move puts France ahead of its allies—including the United States, which, the Washington Post observes, has been unusually passive in the Libyan crisis, with President Obama seemingly content to let allies take the lead.

The move was a victory for the Libyan National Council in its quest for recognition and a setback for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi who has been seeking whatever international support he can as NATO members in Brussels began a debate about the possible imposition of a no-flight zone over Libya.

President Obama is content to let other nations publicly lead the search for solutions to the Libyan conflict, his advisers say, a stance that reflects the more humble tone he has sought to bring to U.S. foreign policy but one that also opens him to criticism that he is a weak leader.