TEHRAN: Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akabr Salehi has invited the head of the Libyan rebels' National Transitional Council (NTC) to visit Tehran, a foreign ministry statement said on Tuesday.
“In a phone conversation (Monday night) with the NTC head, Salehi congratulated the victory of the Muslim people of Libya and stressed (the desire) to deepen bilateral ties,” said the statement, a copy of which was received by AFP.
Following an invitation by the rebel chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil, “Salehi invited the NTC head for a visit at an opportune time,” it added.
On Sunday, Salehi said Iran had “discreetly” provided humanitarian aid to Libyan rebels before the fall of Tripoli on August 21.
Abdel Jalil, for his part, “thanked the Iranian government for its humanitarian aid and assistance during tough times,” and called for the return of Iran's ambassador to Libya, according to the Tuesday statement.
The phone conversation marked the first official contact between Iran and the NTC since Moamer Kadhafi's capital was overrun by rebels and he went into hiding.
Iran has still not officially recognised the NTC.
The statement said the Iranian ambassador, who “left Tripoli after the protest movement of the Libyan people,” would soon return there.
Since the Libyan uprising erupted in mid-February, Iran has adopted a dual approach -- criticising the Qadhafi regime for its violent assaults on the rebels while at the same time condemning Nato's military intervention.
Relations between Shiite majority Iran and Moamer Qadhafi's regime were soured by the disappearance in Libya in 1978 of the Iranian-born Imam Moussa Sadr, who is considered a spiritual leader of Lebanon's Shiites.