Britain gives 'strong message' to Kadhafi envoy: source

1st April 2011, Comments 0 comments

British officials met a top Libyan regime aide in London and gave him a "strong message" that leader Moamer Kadhafi had to step down, a government source said Friday.

Mohammed Ismail, a key confidant of Kadhafi's powerful son Saif al-Islam, had been visiting family in the British capital in recent days when the British government took the opportunity to make contact, they said.

Reports of the meeting came came shortly after Kadhafi's foreign minister Mussa Kussa unexpectedly flew into Britain on Wednesday night and announced he was quitting his post.

"Mohammed Ismail had been in Britain visiting family members and we took the opportunity to send a strong message about the Kadhafi regime," a British government source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The Guardian newspaper said the meeting was one of a number between Britain and Libya in the last two weeks and was believed to have addressed the possibility of an exit strategy for Kadhafi.

Britain's Foreign Office refused to confirm or deny Ismail's visit.

"We are not going to provide a running commentary on our contacts with Libyan officials," a spokeswoman said.

"In any contact that we do have, we make it clear that Kadhafi has to go, that we encourage those around him to abandon this brutal regime and embrace a better future for Libya that allows political transition and real reform that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people."

Prime Minister David Cameron's Downing Street office refused to comment.

Despite a low profile in Libya and internationally, Ismail is a key aide to British-educated Saif al-Islam and represented the nation in arms purchase negotiations, cables leaked on the WikiLeaks website revealed.

Britain meanwhile continued to debrief Mussa Kussa following his surprise arrival at an airport southwest of London, which Cameron described as a sign that Kadhafi's regime was "crumbling".

Britain says had not offered immunity from prosecution to Kussa, a former foreign intelligence chief who was expelled from the country in 1980 when he was ambassador to London, for threatening to kill dissidents.

Scottish authorities say they want to interview Kussa over the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie, in which 270 people died, mostly American citizens.

The Foreign Office spokeswoman told AFP on Friday that British officials including diplomats formerly based at the British embassy in Tripoli were continuing to speak to Kussa, but gave no further details.

It added that it was still investigating reports that the deputy head of Libya's embassy in London had also resigned.

Britain is in contact with up to 10 leading Libyan officials about following Kussa's lead, The Independent newspaper reported.

© 2011 AFP

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