US continues to maintain contact with the Libyan opposition

US continues to maintain contact with the Libyan opposition

"We continue to maintain contact, to talk to the Libyan opposition. The Secretary (of State) was in Paris on Saturday. Those communications continue. We're also in touch with them in Benghazi and elsewhere," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

The contact with the Libyan opposition, he said, is being maintained at several different levels, he said, but was quick to add that there has been no additional meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Libyan opposition after they met in Egypt last Tuesday.

Talks with the opposition at this point of point of time is more broad based and has been talking to a cross section of Libyan opposition through a variety of channels.

"We don't have eyes and ears on the ground in some of these places (in Libya), so we're sharing information but also getting their impressions of what's happening.

And obviously, right now the focus is on the military operation underway in support of UN Security Council Resolution 1973. The immediate goals of that are to stop the fighting, to force Gaddafi into a ceasefire, and to provide humanitarian assistance. So that’s the focus of our conversations right now," Toner said.

US, he said, has made clear that in the long term it doesn’t see Gaddafi as a legitimate ruler and he should step down.

"We are going to, in the long term; continue to apply pressure on him and his associates," he said.

"What we're trying to do is we're trying to convince Colonel Gaddafi and his regime and his associates that they need to step down from power, that they’re delegitimised as the leaders of their country, having turned weapons against their own people, and that remains our ultimate goal here," he said in response to  a question.

"UN Security Council resolution 1973 does offer some additional added pressure on Gaddafi himself and his regime, but we're going to continue discussing with the opposition, working with them, trying to get a feel as they develop as well as an opposition.

That's separate and apart from what's going on right now with the military operation," Toner said.