British Foreign Minister William Hague has made a visit to Benghazi to meet leaders of the National Transitional Council.
He also went walkabout to meet the people and show them his support for their struggle against Colonel Gaddafi, ahead of next week’s meeting of the Libyan Contact Group in Abu Dhabi.
Britain has had no diplomatic relations with Tripoli since March, and has sent a high-ranking diplomat to Benghazi, along with inviting the NTC to open offices in London.
The visit came just hours after British attack helicopters began operations in Libya. Apaches, along with French Gazelles and Tigers, struck at ground units of Gaddafi loyalists around the oil port of Brega overnight in a bid to open the way to Tripoli for rebel forces from the east.
Meanwhile in the now rebel-controlled western mountains NTC forces were celebrating further advances, overunning the strategic road junction of Beer Ayad near Zintan.