Algeria will not yet recognize Libyan rebels as the new leadership of its neighbor state and wants them to make a strong commitment to fighting al Qaeda in North Africa, an Algerian government source told Reuters.
That message underscored a degree of tension between Algeria and some Libyan rebel leaders, who before Muammar Qaddafi apparent fall in an insurgent advance into Tripoli this week accused Algiers of supporting him in the civil war. Algerian authorities have denied this.
The high-ranking source also said Algeria, a US ally in the campaign against al-Qaeda, has evidence that Libyan militants it had handed over to Qaddafi’s government are now at large in Libya and some have joined the insurgents.
“There is proof that Libyan Islamists who were delivered by Algeria to Tripoli have managed to flee and join the rebels. We even saw one of them on TV, speaking in the name of the NTC,” said the source, referring to the rebels’ National Transitional Council.
“We want to be certain that the new rulers in Libya are involved in the fight against al Qaeda in our region -- this is key for good relations,” added the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A rebel military spokesman this week estimated that “95 percent of Libya is under rebel control.” But scattered pockets of loyalist diehards battled opposition fighters hunting for Qaddafi and his sons.
Algeria has said it believes the chaos inside Libya, and large quantities of weapons circulating there, are being exploited by al Qaeda’s North African branch, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The NTC has rejected assertions that it has been infiltrated by al Qaeda or other Islamist militants.
Algeria expects an apology from the rebels over their allegation that it supported Qaddafi in the conflict, the government source said.
“Algeria does not recognize the NTC as it is a transitional institution as its name indicates. Because of this we will only recognize the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people once they themselves pick their leaders,” said the source.
“Algeria hopes the new Libyan authorities respect treaties and conventions between the two countries, notably on security.”
Algeria, a major energy exporter, is still recovering from nearly two decades of conflict between security forces and Islamist militant groups that, at its peak in the 1990s, killed an estimated 200,000 people.
More than 30 countries recognize the NTC as the legitimate representative of Libya.
“We do not get involved in the internal affairs of other countries. We were careful at the start of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt but later recognized their new governments once the people there made their choices clear,” the source said. “It will be the same for Libya.”