Tunis recognizes Libyan rebels as country's rep

By the Associated Press | August 20, 2011 | 7:25 PM EDT

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia's official TAP news agency has cited the Foreign Ministry as saying Tunis recognizes the Libyan rebels' National Transitional Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

The move, announced in a TAP report late Saturday, represents a major shift in policy for Libya's neighbor to the west, which has remained neutral throughout the monthslong civil conflict that has seen rebels attempt to oust long-standing leader Moammar Gadhafi.

France and Italy were among the first nations to recognize the Benghazi-based NTC as the Libyan government, and the United States has also done so.

The NATO-supported rebels have steadily gained ground and are closing in on the capital, Tripoli.