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Algeria ready to recognize Libya’s NTC once it forms government

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Libya’s neighbor Algeria said on Thursday it was ready to recognize Libya’s former rebel government if it forms a broad-based administration, despite a row over the fate of Muammar Qaddafi’s family.

Algeria’s foreign minister, Mourad Medelci, told Europe 1 radio that Libya’s National Transitional Council had vowed to set up a “government representative of all regions” and added: “When it has done so, we’ll recognize it.”

Algeria angered the NTC on Saturday by allowing one of Qaddafi’s wives and some of his children and grandchildren to cross the border and seek sanctuary from the manhunt for the ousted strongman. This fed the suspicion the NTC leadership already had for its larger neighbor, based on reports that Algeria had supported Qaddafi’s bid to cling to power and might consider granting him protective asylum.

But Medelci dismissed this, adding that he had spoken by telephone to NTC number two Mahmud Jibril and planned to hold talks later Tuesday in Paris with the movement’s president and de facto Libyan leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil.

“The hypothesis that Qaddafi could come knocking on our door was never considered,” said Medelci, a few hours before he was to attend a major Paris conference of countries France has dubbed “Friends of Libya.”

France, which has mobilized international support for the NTC, is glad Algeria has agreed to attend the talks, but Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that the country’s attitude during the conflict had been “ambiguous”.

Algeria, a former French colony, shared with Qaddafi a distrust of Western interference in North Africa and is concerned that the rebels that overthrew him include Islamists sympathetic to militants within its own borders.

According to the Algerian daily El-Watan’s online edition on Wednesday, Qaddafi has tried to negotiate with Algerian authorities to enter the country from a Libyan border town he is holed up in after the NTC seized Tripoli. Citing sources close to the Algerian president, the francophone newspaper reported that the former strongman had “tried to reach President Abdelaziz Bouteflika by telephone but he has refused to take the call.”

The report said Qaddafi was hiding out in the border town of Ghadames with family members awaiting permission to cross into Algeria, where his wife, two sons and a daughter have already made their way. Qaddafi’s daughter Aisha gave birth to a daughter in Algeria after fleeing Libya as her father’s regime crumbled.

The Algerian government said on Tuesday that she had crossed into Algeria on Saturday with her brother Hannibal, their mother Safiya ─ Qaddafi’s second wife ─ and the fugitive leader’s eldest son, Mohammed. However Seif al-Islam, another fugitive son of the toppled dictator, said on Wednesday in an audio tape broadcast on an Arabic-language channel that he was still in Tripoli and that the fight against the rebels goes on.