Kadhafi's foreign minister arrives in Britain and quits post

31st March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Libya's Moamer Kadhafi suffered another blow Wednesday when his foreign minister flew into Britain telling officials he no longer wanted to represent the Tripoli regime.

Mussa Kussa arrived at Farnborough Airfield, west of London, on Wednesday, a Foreign Office statement said.

"He travelled here under his own free will. He has told us that he is resigning his post," it added.

"Mussa Kussa is one of the most senior figures in Kadhafi's government and his role was to represent the regime internationally, something that he is no longer willing to do," the British statement continued.

"We encourage those around Kadhafi 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," it concluded.

Kussa arrived after a two-day stay in Tunisia, having entered on Monday by the Ras Jdir border crossing.

Tripoli had officially described it as a "private visit." Then, when he was reported to be on his way to London, the Libyan authorities said he was on a "diplomatic mission".

His departure is just the latest blow to Kadafi's regime.

Several senior members of Kadhafi's entourage, including ministers and senior military officers, have defected since the uprising against his 42-year-rule began more than a month ago.

Washington quickly hailed Kussa's departure as a major blow to the Kadhafi regime.

"This is a very significant defection and an indication that people around Kadhafi think the writing's on the wall," a senior official in the US administration said.

Kussa is credited as having been a key figure in Libya's efforts to improve its international reputation before to the current crisis.

The 59-year-old was installed as Kadhafi's foreign minister in March 2009 after having served as the head of Libya's intelligence agency from 1994.

One of Kadhafi's trusted advisers, Kussa is believed to have convinced the leader to dismantle his nuclear weapons programme, opening the way for the lifting of US trade sanctions.

Earlier in his career, in 1980, Kussa served as ambassador to Britain, but was expelled after saying he wanted to eliminate the "enemies" of the Libyan regime in Britain.

Another senior defector meanwhile, rebel commander Major General Suleiman Mahmoud, told BBC's Newsnight on Wednesday that his forces needed time and help -- including weapons -- to overcome the Kadhafi regime.

"Our problem (is) we need help: communication, radios, we need weapons," he told the news programme.

With international help, Kadhafi could be defeated within two weeks: but without that help it could take more than six months, he warned.

Libya's opposition Transitional National Council (TNC) features a number of former senior figures in Kadhafi's regime.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who quit as justice minister in February in protest at the crackdown on protesters, heads up the body.

Abdulrahman Shalgham, Libya's envoy to the UN and a former foreign minister, has also joined the opposition.

Scores of Libyan diplomats across the world have also resigned.

Earlier Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament he would not rule out arming the rebels.

News of Kussa's arrival came just hours after British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that London was expelling five Libyan diplomats, including the country's military attache.

They were being kicked out for having intimidated Libyan opposition groups in London, Hague told Parliament.

"The government also judged that were these individuals to remain in Britain they could pose a threat to our security," he added.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the expelled diplomats were thought to be strong supporters of Kadhafi.

In Libya itself meanwhile, the rebel forces suffered a serious reverse.

Their forces were driven back some 200 kilometres by the superior firepower of Kadhafi's forces in a chaotic stampede that saw them yield most of the ground their recent advances had secured.

© 2011 AFP

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