The tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar has become the first Arab nation to recognize the rebels of Libya as representing that country’s legitimate ruling body.

The announcement comes following an oil marketing contract between the Benghazi-based rebels and Qatar.

Reportedly, the Qatar Petroleum company agreed to market crude oil produced from oil fields in eastern Libya, which are now firmly under rebel control.

We contacted the oil company of Qatar and thankfully they agreed to take all the oil that we wish to export and market this oil for us, said Ali Tarhouni, a rebel official in charge of economic, financial and oil matters, according to media reports.

Our next shipment will be in less than a week, he said, speaking from the rebel-held city of Benghazi.

Tarhouni added that production from the Libyan oil fields controlled by the rebels is currently at about 100,000 to 130,000 barrels per day, but could be increased to 300,000.

Qatar is not only the second country (after France) to recognize the Libyan rebel council, but the motion has also been backed by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), the six-member Persian Gulf bloc that includes Qatar.

Abdulrahman al-Attiyah, the outgoing GCC secretary general, said Qatar's recognition of the transitional council as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people comes in line with the decisions of the GCC. The Libyan system has lost its legitimacy.”

Not only has Qatar has given the Libyan rebels a boost of legitimacy, but it had already provided warplanes to help impose a no fly zone over Libya, with the support of the United Nations and Arab League.

Libyan state television has condemned Qatar's recognition of the rebel group, saying the measure is tantamount to blatant interference in Libyan affairs.