Russia recognized the National Transitional Council (NTC) as Libya's legitimate authorities on Thursday, moving to increase its influence in postwar reconstruction and protect its economic interests in the oil-producing North African nation

"The Russian Federation recognizes the National Transitional Council as the current authorities and takes note of its declared reform program, which calls for the development of a new constitution, the holding of general elections and the formation of a government," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Russia's statement, coming in the wake of the recent and apparent downfall of Libya's longtime ruler Muammar Gadhafi, came as a significant achievement for the NTC, especially in light of Moscow's consistent disapproval of NATO's military support for the Libyan rebels.

The declaration comes a little over a week after Libya's rebel NTC declared itself the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people and formed an interim government as it conducted military operations against Gadhafi.

As opposed to many world powers who had chosen to recognize the rebel council's announcement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at the time that Moscow would not recognize the NTC as the sole legitimate representative of Libya, but that it would recognize it as a party to the talks.

While Russian officials have agreed that Gadhafi had to go, they nonetheless accused NATO of over-stepping its United Nations mandate with its bombing campaign in Libya and urged talks between rebels and the government.

Lavrov, speaking following the NTC's announcement, suggested that recognizing the rebel council as Libya's sole legitimate government would not help.

Earlier Thursday, China's regime, who, along with Russia, had been vocal critic of NATO's military campaign in Libya, hinted that the West was better served allowing the UN to lead Libya's reconstruction.

The People's Daily, the main paper of China's ruling Communist Party, laid bare Beijing's qualms about the influence the United States, European powers and NATO may claim in post-war Libya. It appeared on the day leaders meet in Paris to discuss the future of the north African nation.

The UN issue could feature at the "Friends of Libya" meeting that will include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron and other world leaders. China has sent a relatively junior representative, Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun, to attend as an observer.

"As a permanent member of the Security Council, China has full reason to stress the leading role of the United Nations," said a commentary in the Chinese-language People's Daily, referring to Libya, where rebels are trying to wipe out
resistance from Gadhafi's supporters.