Benghazi – Spain sees the National Transitional Council set up by rebels opposed to Col. Moammar Gadhafi as the "legitimate representative of the Libyan people," Madrid's top diplomat said here Wednesday.
Trinidad Jimenez conveyed that message in talks with the NTC's chairman, former Gadhafi aide Mustafa Abdul Jalil, during the Spanish foreign minister's brief visit to the rebel bastion of Benghazi.
"Any solution for Libya involves Gadhafi's leaving power," she said at a joint press conference with NTC international affairs chief Ali al-Essawi.
Jimenez also pledged Spanish support for reconstruction in post-conflict Libya and said Madrid will continue with its current efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the oil-rich North African nation.
While increasing its engagement with the NTC, Madrid has not extended formal diplomatic recognition to the rebel body, consistent with Spain's traditional doctrine that relations are between states, not governments.
The Libyan Embassy in Madrid remains in operation and Spain's mission in Tripoli is still open, albeit unmanned since charge d'affaires Diego Ruiz left after helping secure the release late last month of a Spanish photojournalist captured by pro-Gadhafi forces.
Despite the persistence of formal diplomatic ties, Jimenez said Wednesday that Spain broke off all dialogue with Gadhafi after he reacted to public protests with violence.
"We have never again spoken with the Gadhafi regime once the revolution began," the Spanish foreign minister said.
Jimenez will represent Spain at a meeting Thursday in the United Arab Emirates of the Libya contact group, comprising the nations taking part in U.N.-authorized military operations to protect Libyan civilians from Gadhafi's forces.
Spain has provided ships and aircraft to help enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, though Spanish forces have not taken part in combat missions.
Spain has so far contributed around 6 million euros ($8.7 million) to aid civilians in Libya.