BENGHAZI, Libya, June 7 (UPI) -- Moscow is ready to act as an intermediary between rebel forces in eastern Libya and the government in Tripoli, the Russian special envoy to Africa said.
Mikhail Margelov, Russia's special envoy to Africa, met Tuesday with members of the rebel-backed Transitional National Council in Benghazi. He was quoted by Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying Moscow could "build a bridge" between the two parties in Libya.
"We haven't broken off our diplomatic ties with Tripoli, we have established our relations with Benghazi and we are ready, if it proves possible, to mediate a solution to the Libyan political dialogue," he said.
NATO announced last week that it was extending its mission in Libya into September. The U.N. Security Council in March authorized the use of force in Libya to protect civilians from attacks by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Russia abstained from U.N. votes on Libya. Moscow had complained that NATO forces were going beyond the U.N. mandate in Libya.
Nevertheless, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Libyan opposition leaders last month in Moscow.
"The Transitional National Council does not seek to be recognized as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people but wants to be seen as a legitimate partner in negotiations on Libya's future," he was quoted by the state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying.