The United States took the lead in recognizing the cause of the rebel government in Libya, the White House national security adviser claimed Friday, not indicating whether he meant that lead was from behind. 

"We have been leading the effort and led the effort prior to the fall of the Qaddafi government to recognize them," National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said in a speech at the Economic Club of Washington.

But Donilan's claims appear to conflict with recent history. 

The U.S. and more than 30 other nations formally recognized the National Transitional Council on July 15, four months after France. French President Nikolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron were on the ground in Libya this week meeting with officials of the NTC.

In April, the U.S. State Department actually belittled the idea of formal recognition by the U.S., noting that it wasn't the "be all and end all."

"There is lots we can do for the opposition before or short of recognition," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, adding that the U.S. was trying to figure out how to be helpful without arming the rebels.

"We're still considering that option," Toner said at the time. "So I don't want to create the idea or notion that somehow they're all linked up and when and if we do recognize them, that's going to set in motion other things. This is happening on a continuum. There's a lot of different strands to this. But we continue to evaluate them and to figure out how we can best assist them."

The White House has tried to strike a balance in the way it has approached U.S intervention in Libya, fearful of being dragged into the middle of a protracted civil conflict while still conducting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Obama waited until the United Nations gave its blessing before launching military air strikes. The mission was eventually taken over by NATO with the U.S. in a secondary role.

The rebels finally gained the upper hand on Muammar Qaddafi's forces last month, storming the leader's compound. Some of his family fled while others were reportedly killed. Qaddafi's whereabouts are still unknown.

The U.N. General Assembly voted Friday to give Libya's seat to the National Transitional Council, allowing a senior council official to speak for the North African nation at next week's annual session and participate in meetings.