Rebel leaders won recognition as the legitimate government of Libya from the United States and other world powers on Friday in a major boost to the rebels' faltering campaign to oust Muammar Gaddafi.
Western nations said they also planned to increase the military pressure on Gaddafi's forces to press him to give up power after 41 years at the head of the North African state.
Recognition of the rebels, announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a meeting in Turkey of the international contact group on Libya, is an important diplomatic step which could unlock billions of dollars in frozen Libyan funds.
The decision comes as reports are circulating Gaddafi has sent out emissaries seeking a negotiated end to the conflict, although he remains defiant in his public utterance.
In a speech broadcast as thousands of loyalists rallied in a street demonstration, Gaddafi rejected international recognition of the rebels.
"Trample on those recognitions, trample on them under your feet," he told his supporters. "They are worthless." (more)