European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton pledged support for rebels in east Libya on Sunday, making the most senior visit to the area by a foreign official since a revolt against Muammar Gaddafi began.
"I saw the posters on the way from the airport to here saying 'We have a dream' and I'm here today to explain not only about our short-term support but also the breadth of our support," Ashton said in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
Visiting to open a representative office for the EU, Ashton toured the square next to the Benghazi court house, epicentre of the revolt that erupted in mid-February.
Several Libyans surrounded her, flicking "V-for-Victory" signs. One man nearby said: "Every Libyan is very happy."
Ashton's visit "shows the increased support of the European Union in supporting us to have a democratic and free state", said the head of the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil.
"Tightening EU sanctions"
Ashton said she discussed support for health, education, civil society, border management and security reform.
"We seek to support, not just now, but for the future and as long as the people of this country wish us there," she said.
The most foreign senior visitor to visit the rebel-held region until now had been the Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, who travelled to Benghazi on May 11.
Western diplomatic sources told Reuters last week the EU was considering tightening sanctions on Gaddafi's government by blacklisting ports to prevent oil exports and fuel imports.
One source said EU experts had reached an agreement to put six ports -- Tripoli, Zuara, Zawiyah, Al-Khoms, Ras Lanuf and Brega -- on the list. Proposals could be submitted to the EU sanctions committee next week.
Another EU diplomat said the measure could be discussed by foreign ministers who meet in Brussels on Monday.
The revolt against the Libyan leader's rule has crippled the refining industry and Gaddafi urgently needs fuel imports. His government wants to raise fuel imports by using a loophole in international sanctions.
Gani, a London-based Muslim preacher who was linked to ISIL by British PM, says name being tarnished
Kurdish Regional Government's PM Nechervan Barzani says priority is fighting ISIL and stabilizing economy
A five month pregnant Palestinian woman and her 16 year old brother were executed by the IDF on the way to a medical appointment
Expanded cabinet and parliament pave way for elections in war-torn country in 2018
42 killed as a result of strike on hospital operated by Doctors Without Border in Afghanistan
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun told the UN Security Council that the total number of casualties now stands at 30,729
Foreign MInister Lavrov says Russia will 'take the necessary military-technical action' at its northernmost borders if Sweden joins the US-led alliance
Two dozen police have been injured and more than 120 arrests during night of demonstrations nationwide against watering-down of worker rights in France
Security guard shared thousands of messages online and was preparing to travel to Syria
Foreign Secretary Hammond calls on Moscow, as Syrian regime’s ‘protector’, to use its influence to stop fighting
Newly deployed forces in Syria to vet fighters, be hub for partner nations' special forces, defense leaders say
'If Turkey wants to come closer to EU so badly, let them prove they can,' European Commission's first vice-president says
'The vice president has arrived in Iraq for meetings with (the) Iraqi leadership focused on encouraging Iraqi national unity and continued momentum in the fight against ISIL,' US vice president's office says
Upholding 15-year rule, court rejects bid to potentially enfranchise thousands of UK citizens living abroad
Settler groups have called on followers to enter Al-Aqsa compound in force during Jewish Passover holiday
French National Assembly in Paris passes non-binding resolution calling on French government to lift EU sanctions on Russia