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Spain says it hasn't officially recognized Libyan rebels

By Al Goodman, CNN
  • The Spanish government sent a diplomat to Benghazi this week
  • However, the meetings don't mean formal recognition, a spokeswoman says
  • Spanish photographer Manu Brabo has been held captive for a month in Libya

Madrid (CNN) -- Spain denies it has officially recognized the Libyan rebels' transitional council as the legitimate leadership of Libya, despite sending a diplomat to talk to them, a Spanish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Thursday.

"There has been no change in our position," said the spokeswoman, who by custom is not identified.

The Libyan rebels earlier said that Spain, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands had recently recognized the rebels' interim Transitional National Council. Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands have also denied an official recognition.

Spain still has an embassy in Tripoli, although it evacuated its personnel from the city, like many other nations, as fighting between the regime of Moammar Gadhafi and rebels intensified in late March.

Spain has since sent back a senior diplomat from the embassy to the Libyan capital, in part to monitor developments and seek the release of Spanish news photographer Manu Brabo, who has been held captive for a month in Libya along with some other international journalists who were covering the conflict.

A Spanish diplomat, Jose Riera, arrived in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi earlier this week and "aims to maintain and reinforce dialogue" with the Transitional National Council, the spokeswoman said. But, she added, "That does not mean legal recognition."

The foreign ministry spokeswoman declined to give any details about Brabo's situation, due to the "discretion and prudence" that his case demands, but Spanish media reported April 24 that Brabo talked by phone to his parents in northern Spain and told them he was safe and being treated well.

While the Spanish embassy in Tripoli was vacant, Spain initially contacted the Gadhafi regime about the captive photographer through the Hungarian Embassy and the Turkish Consulate in Tripoli, before the Spanish diplomat arrived back in Tripoli, the spokeswoman said.

Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez was in Rome Thursday for another international meeting of nations regarding the crisis in Libya.

The Spanish parliament recently approved an extension to Spain's participation in United Nations-mandated, NATO-led military operation in Libya. Spain has deployed four F-18 fighter jets and a refueling plan to help enforce a no-fly zone, and a frigate, a submarine and a surveillance plane to help impose an arms embargo against the Gadhafi regime.