Libya Downplays Foreign Minister's Defection

Published on Thursday 31st March 2011

Libya is downplaying the defection of one of its key figures in political leadership.A spokesman for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi confirmed on Thursday that Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa resigned and says Koussa's decision was "personal." In a news conference in Tripoli, spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the resignation did not represent a blow to Libya - despite Western claims otherwise. He added that Koussa had been suffering from health conditions but would be welcomed back if he chose to return home. Koussa traveled to London on Wednesday and defected. He had initially indicated he was leaving Libya to seek medical treatment. The British government says it has made no offers of diplomatic immunity to Koussa.British Foreign Secretary William Hague also said Thursday that Koussa had received no offers of protection from international prosecution.  There are allegations that he was implicated in the planning of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.  British Prime Minister David Cameron called Koussa's decision to leave a compelling story that struck "right at the heart of the crumbling and rotten Gadhafi regime."  He commented during a Thursday news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. U.S. officials called Koussa's resignation "very significant" and an example of growing splits inside the Libyan government. The foreign minister has been a close confidant of Gadhafi and served as his intelligence chief for more than a decade.Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says the international community will not be able to force Gadhafi to leave through "actions of war" but rather through pressure to encourage defections by people close to him.  He commented a day after he met with a Libyan rebel leader.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.


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