Fresh blow for Gaddafi as top minister Musa Kusa flees
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was dealt a heavy blow last night when one of his closest allies quit and fled to Britain.
The Foreign Office said foreign minister Musa Kusa had arrived on a plane from Tunisia and was “no longer willing” to represent the dictator's regime.
“We can confirm that Musa Kusa arrived at Farnborough Airport on March 30 from Tunisia,” a spokesman said.
“He travelled here under his own free will. He has told us that he is resigning his post. We are discussing this with him and will release further details in due course.
“Musa Kusa is one of the most senior figures in Gaddafi's government and his role was to represent the regime internationally — something he is no longer willing to do.
“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.”
The confirmation came after rumours circulated that Kusa had decided to defect.
The official Tunisian news agency TAP reported yesterday that he had entered that country, but gave no reasons for his move.
When it emerged earlier this evening that Kusa was on his way to the UK, the Libyan authorities initially claimed he was on a diplomatic mission for Gaddafi.
But within hours, the Foreign Office announced his real motive was to seek refuge.
The news came after five Libyan diplomats were expelled from Britain yesterday because of fears they were involved in plots to assassinate Libyan opposition leaders in London.
Police and security services received intelligence that the Gaddafi regime had passed on orders through the Libyan embassy in Tunisia that prominent opponents of the regime should be “taken out” in London and Qatar.
Downing Street said the expelled diplomats had “a very strong allegiance to the Gaddafi regime” and were known to have been “putting pressure on Libyan opposition and student groups in the UK”. Each has a week to leave the country or lose their diplomatic immunity.
Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday that Britain has not ruled out arming Libyan opposition forces, as rebel troops fell back under an onslaught from Gaddafi's military.
Mr Cameron stressed that no decision had yet been taken to supply weapons to the forces involved in the uprising against the dictator's 42-year rule.
Meanwhile, rebels in Libya were in terrified retreat yesterday, enmeshed in recriminations against their own leadership and accusing officials dealing with the international community of mis-representing the reality.
After 12 nights of Western military intervention, the revolutionary forces had been pushed back by yesterday evening to the last city before Benghazi, the capital of the opposition provisional government, seemingly with their confidence drained and showing little will to continue the fight.
The collapse by the revolutionary forces in the space of 48 hours was spectacular.
Musa Kusa has long been a key player in Gaddafi's regime and previously acted as the country's representative in Britain. He headed the Libyan intelligence agency from 1994 to 2009, when he became minster for foreign affairs, and is one of the country's most powerful figures. He was credited with persuading the dictator to stop funding terrorism.