Key Gaddafi ally defects, arrives in UK

2011-03-31 08:11
London - Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, one of Muammar Gaddafi's closest advisers and a former spy chief, defected and flew to Britain on Wednesday in protest at attacks by Gaddafi forces on civilians, a friend said.

A British government source described his resignation as "a significant blow" to Gaddafi and Koussa's predecessor as the ministry said he was "part of the regime's spinal cord ... Koussa is a pillar of the temple".

Koussa is the latest minister to defect after the revolt against Gaddafi's 41-year rule erupted last month and Western-led air strikes began to pound Libyan tanks and artillery being used against rebels fighting to hold territory.

"Koussa is one of the most senior figures in Gaddafi's government and his role was to represent the regime internationally - something that he is no longer willing to do," a British Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement.

He crossed the border into Tunisia on Monday and flew from there into Farnborough, a business airport in southeast England.

"He travelled here under his own free will. He has told us he is resigning his post," the spokesperson said.

Potential benefit


Noman Benotman, a friend and analyst at Britain's Quilliam think tank, said Koussa was "seeking refuge" in Britain. "He has defected from the regime," he said. "He wasn't happy at all. He doesn't support the government attacks on civilians."

A Libyan spokesperson said Koussa - who was involved in talks that led to the Libyan convicted of the bombing of an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, being released from a British jail - had not defected and was travelling on a diplomatic mission.

Koussa, Western-educated and English speaking, was the architect of a dramatic shift in Libya's foreign policy that brought the oil-producing desert state back to the international community after years of sanctions.

A potential benefit to the West from his defection is that if he decides to share his knowledge he could reveal valuable information about how the Gaddafi administration functions and the weak points that could be exploited to bring Gaddafi down.

British officials were also keen to establish what role, if any, Koussa wished to play in the anti-Gaddafi coalition. Some of other ministers and ambassadors who have resigned since the revolt started in February have joined the opposition.

A Western diplomat said Koussa's defection was significant because it sent a message to other people at Gaddafi's side that they could still defect, even if they were associated with the bloody crackdown on Gaddafi's opponents.

"We encourage those around Gaddafi to abandon him and embrace a better future for Libya that allows political transition and real reform that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people," Britain's Foreign Office said.

Elite fracturing

However, despite Koussa's influential position, Gaddafi's innermost circle is made up principally of his sons and people with family ties, and their loyalty is likely to be more robust.

Geoff Porter, an independent analyst on North Africa who has testified on Libya in the US Congress, said Koussa's defection was one of the first signs the Gaddafi elite was fracturing.

"So while [Koussa's] ... departure is a sign that things are bad in the Gaddafi camp, it is also a sign that the Gaddafi camp will drift toward extremism, nihilism and acute violence."

Koussa's predecessor Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, a former UN envoy who renounced the Libyan leadership, told Al Jazeera news channel that Koussa was the Gaddafi's government's "black box" and with his defection, it had reached its end.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told ABC television network she was aware that people close to Gaddafi had been trying to make contact.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has kept in contact with Koussa during the mounting crisis in Libya.

Hague told the BBC last month he had called the minister the previous day "because you still have to communicate to them directly, personally: this situation is unacceptable".

Earlier on Wednesday, Britain said it was expelling five Libyan diplomats to protest at Libya's actions and because they could pose a threat to national security.

Read more on:    moussa koussa  |  muammar gaddafi  |  libya  |  libya protests  |  north africa  |  uprisings
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
9 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Athlone - 16:45 PM
    Road name: M7 Vanguard Drive Southbound
    DELAYS between Jakkalsvlei Avenue and the Klipfontein Road exit
  • Tuesday Table View - 16:35 PM
    Road name: Marine Drive Northbound
    DELAYS between Sunset Beach and Blaauwberg Road
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold 9780

BlackBerry 6 Engage your world with BlackBerry 6 OS on the...

From R3049.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something may come up to alert you of your security needs. It may be that you need to create a better structure for your finances...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.