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In Paris, US seeks to secure its spot among Libya's new best friends

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A desire to be on the winning side – and to reap the benefits of doing so – goes a long way in explaining Russia’s decision to recognize the TNC on the eve of the Paris conference.

Until this week Russia had been reluctant to take any action that might suggest it condoned NATO’s involvement in the conflict, and it had also hoped to create a role for itself in Libya by maintaining its contacts with Mr. Qaddafi’s regime, some regional analysts say. But with a deposed and hunted Qaddafi now clearly the loser, the analysts add, the only option for a country like Russia that is looking to burnish its standing in the Middle East is to jump to the winners.

“Gee, what a surprise that was,” says Wayne White, an adjunct scholar with the Middle East Institute (MEI) in Washington. “The Russians were particularly loath to see the end of a regime they were so close with, so salvaging some kind of foothold in Libya was not part of their motivation for recognizing the council, it was their only motivation.”

That does not mean that Russia is the only country out there looking to preserve or augment its cut of the Libyan pie.

Mr. White, a former State Department Middle East expert, says the Qaddafi regime has been “utterly inept” at maintaining infrastructure, particularly in the oil sector – a fact he says is well known in the region and beyond.

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