Neighbouring Tunisia recognises Libyan rebels

DVBP216 4 W 0289 TUN /AFP-VJ29 Tunisia-Libya-conflict-rebels 2ndlead Neighbouring Tunisia recognises Libyan rebels ATTENTION - ADDS details on refugees, demo, Kadhafi's number two fleeing /// TUNIS, Aug 21, 2011 (AFP) - Tunisia on Sunday decided to recognise the rebel National Transitional Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, the official news agency TAP reported. "The political decision has been taken," a government source confirmed to AFP, as the rebels in Libya pushed their advance and were said to be only 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the capital Tripoli. Since the outbreak of the conflict six months ago, Libya's neighbour Tunisia has observed a prudent neutrality towards the warring sides. Some 700,000 refugees have fled the fighting onto Tunisian soil. Tunisia is currently sheltering around 100,000 Libyans nationwide, many of them taken in by Tunisian families. Thousands of them, anticipating the imminent fall of Moamer Kadhafi, demonstrated on Saturday night in front of the Libyan embassy, unfurling a huge flag for the rebels across the facade of the building. Many Libyan representatives from both the Kadhafi regime and the rebellion have transited Tunisia, where negotiations and informal discussions have been held, notably on the resort island of Djerba. Libya's former prime minister Abdessalam Jalloud fled to Italy via Tunisia early Saturday, Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa confirmed in Rome. Kadhafi's former number two and his family reportedly boarded a Maltese plane early Saturday on Djerba. Libya's state-run JANA news agency downplayed Jalloud's flight, saying he had been out of politics for some time. cf/ss/db AFP 211148 GMT AUG 11