London confirms contact with Libyan rebels
London confirmed Sunday that it has a diplomatic team inside Libya which has made contact with rebels there, but declined to comment on reports that British special forces soldiers guarding the team had been captured by Libyan troops, dpa reported.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox confirmed in an interview on BBC that a "small diplomatic team" was in the eastern city of Benghazi but declined to discuss the situation further.
"We are in touch with them but it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on that for reasons I am sure you will understand," Fox added.
Asked if the diplomats were in danger, he said "we are in touch with them but I'm not giving further comment on that."
Fox added that there were a number of different groups in opposition to leader Moamer Gaddafi, and these groups "do seem relatively disparate."
London's aim was to try to "clearly understand what dynamic" was involved "because we want to work with them to ensure the demise of the Gaddafi regime, to see a transition to greater stability in Libya and ultimately to more representative government," Fox told BBC.
He said the effort to get a picture of the situation had been "relatively difficult" with communications being interrupted, problems with mobile phone links and the internet being possibly interfered with.
"So we are trying to build a picture," Fox said. "It's essential that all Western governments do that so we re able to get a clearer idea of what we are able to do in terms of helping the people in Libya."
Earlier, the Sunday Times had reported that eight British special forces (SAS) commandos were captured by rebel forces in eastern Libya.
The paper said the soldiers were escorting a junior British diplomat through rebel-held territory who was hoping to make contact with the insurgent forces. The government refused to comment.
A Geneva-based human rights group also said it was aware that a team of special forces troops had been seized by Libyan rebels, but was unaware of their nationality.
The Times report said the rebels took the captive SAS soldiers to Benghazi, the largest city held by the opposition, where they being held.