Libya embassies abroad defect

2011-08-24 11:23

Manila, Philippines – Libyan diplomats and students smashed portraits of Muammar Gaddafi, shouted “Game over!” and raised the rebel flag at their Manila embassy as part of defections against the leader at Libya’s missions worldwide.

As rebels stormed the Libyan capital and Gaddafi’s power and influence abroad crumbled, Libyan consul Faraj Zarroug in Philippine capital said about 85% of his country’s 165 diplomatic missions around the globe now recognised the interim rebel government, the National Transitional Council.

“It’s game over for Mr Gaddafi!” Zarroug said. “Probably in a few days, everything will be over, hopefully. I’m very happy.”

Libyan diplomats abroad have been pledging allegiance to the rebels in a gradual, months-long trend, but there appeared to be an upsurge in defections this week.

The missions to Switzerland and Bangladesh, for example, switched early after the crisis erupted nearly six months ago, and Libyan embassy officials in Japan and Ethiopia replaced the government flag with the rebels’ tricolor on Monday.

A spokesperson for the rebels in Dubai, Edward Marques, said that the defections had turned into a “cascade”, but declined to list the locations of rebel supporters. The Libyan government could no longer be reached for comment.

“The situation is very, very fluid,” Marques said.

At the Manila mission, diplomats in business suits pulled down Gaddafi’s green flag and raised the rebel one, while young expatriates rampaged through the compound.

AP journalists were invited in to watch and film them smashing glass portraits and ripping up copies of Gaddafi’s slogan-filled Green Book outlining his political philosophy.

Students spat on the ripped pages, and shouted “Die, Gaddafi, Die!” or “Leave, Gaddafi, Leave!” or “Game over!”

“We can say what we want. No one can stop us!” said Mahmoud Binhafa, a 29-year-old student who was nearly breathless with excitement. “We want like, you know, freedom to be happy, to say whatever we want.”

Meanwhile in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, a defiant Gaddafi vowed in a broadcast to fight on “until victory or martyrdom” and called on residents and loyal tribesmen across his North African nation to free the country from the “devils and traitors” who have overrun it.

The Libyan leader’s whereabouts were unknown today, a day after hundreds of rebels stormed his Bab al-Aziziya fortress-like compound in the capital. They had poured into Tripoli on Monday in a stunning breakthrough in the conflict.

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Libyan ambassador to the African Union, Ali Awidan, said he raised the new rebel flag on Monday, changing sides at the last moment.

“I was not serving Gaddafi, I have been serving Libya,” he said.

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