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Libya: Russia Recognises Rebel Council Ahead Of International Summit In Paris

Russia has recognised Libya's interim government hours ahead of an international summit in Paris that aims to show support for the rebel council.

The Kremlin previously called for Gaddafi to go but fell short of officially recognising the National Transitional Council, and has been critical of the Nato-led efforts in the north African nation.

In a statement on Thursday the foreign ministry announced that it now recognised the NTC "as the current authorities and takes note of its declared reform programme, which calls for the development of a new constitution, the holding of general elections and the formation of a government".

In comes ahead of the biggest international conference to be held over the Libya crisis in Paris, which will be attended by delegates from Russia and more than 60 other nations.

However one third of the governments attending have yet to recognise the NTC as the new legitimate rulers of Libya, including China.

Senior figures from Libya's fledgling NTC government will be invited to set out their plans for the future of their country including reconstruction and democratisation.

The summit will be hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron at the Elysee Palace in the French capital.

The two leaders initially led international efforts to put pressure on the Gaddafi regime, including contributing significant military resource to the Nato enforced no-fly zone.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the presence of so many countries at the meeting showed countries had seen "which way the wind had blown" and were ready to deal with the NTC.

"One of the things this conference was showing is that the world is moving on and coming together in a new way to support the future of Libya," he told Sky News.

But he denied the summit was being held so countries and corporations could secure lucrative business contracts.

"Any country turning up there thinking they are going to get a contract of whatever kind will be disappointed, this is not what the conference in Paris is about," he said.

The United States will be represented at the summit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also due to attend.

On Wednesday it was revealed that the RAF had flown £140m of Libyan banknotes (280m Libyan dinars) to Libya following the decision to unfreeze some of Colonel Gaddafi's assets.

Hague said the delivery was intended to help pay for a wide range of services including the wages of Libyan public sector employees, including nurses, doctors, teachers and police officers.

“Returning money to the Libyan people is part of our commitment to help the NTC rebuild Libya and help create a country where the legitimate needs and aspirations of the Libyan people can be met. It follows and was authorised by the UN’s decision to unfreeze 1.86bn Libyan dinar banknotes printed in the UK. Further deliveries of the remaining funds will be made shortly," he said.

On Thursday France said it had received approval from the UN to release 1.5 billion euros ($2.16 billion) of Libyan assets.