Libya’s foreign minister defects, arrives in Britain

LONDON (Reuters) – Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, one of Muammar Gaddafi’s closest advisers and a former spy chief, flew to Britain yesterday and a close friend said he defected because of attacks by Gaddafi forces on civilians.

The move was “a significant blow” to Gaddafi, a British government source told Reuters.

Koussa is one of the most senior members of Gaddafi’s inner circle to defect — a major setback for the Libyan leader who faces a revolt against his 41-year rule in the North African oil producing desert state as well as Western air strikes. Koussa, who was involved in talks that led to the freeing by the British government of the man convicted over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, is resigning his post and the British government said it hoped more senior figures would join him. “He travelled here under his own free will. He has told us he is resigning his post,” a Foreign Office spokesman said in a statement. “We are discussing this with him and we will release further detail in due course.”

He was reported to be being debriefed by British intelligence and foreign ministry officials.

“Koussa is one of the most senior figures in Gaddafi’s government and his role was to represent the regime internationally — something that he is no longer willing to do,” the spokesman said.

“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 Foreign Office said.

Koussa arrived at Farnborough airport in southern England on a flight from Tunisia, Britain’s Foreign Office said.

Koussa is the highest profile of a number of Libyan ministers and ambassadors who have resigned in recent weeks, some of them joining the opposition to Gaddafi.

The British government source described the decision by Koussa, as “clearly a significant blow to the Gaddafi regime”.

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