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However, he warned them that the “time is fast approaching where they have to make a decision.”

“They can … either go down with the ship or else change sides,” he said.

Mr. Cretz also said the Obama administration is encouraged by its contacts with the rebel provisional government in Benghazi but not ready to give it diplomatic recognition. He said certain legal reasons are blocking that move, but he declined to give more details.

He called the opposition “a serious group worthy of support.”

“They continue to say the right things. They are reaching out to the international community. They’re trying to be as inclusive as possible,” he said.

Mr. Cretz was recalled to Washington last year, after the White House was embarrassed by the publication of leaked diplomatic cables that ridiculed Col. Gadhafi.

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