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Africa

UK debriefs defecting Kadhafi minister

media Mussa Kussa in Tripoli earlier this month Reuters/Zohra Bensemra

Britain was on Thursday debriefing Libyan Foreign Minister Mussa Kassa after he defected from the regime of Moamer Kadhafi. Nato took command of international operations after Kadhafi forces apparently took control of the oil town of Brega Wednesday.

THE BATTLE FOR LIBYA

Kassa’s defection shows that Kadhafi’s regime is crumbling, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told a press conference Thursday morning.

The defecting minister “has not been guaranteed any immunity from British or international justice”, he said adding that he was being pumped for information by British intelligence agencies.

Kussa's defection is "very important at this stage because he knows a lot of secrets of the regime”, Libya's former deputy ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, told France 24 television.

"He knows how Colonel Kadhafi is directing the operations against the revolutionary forces and how he behaved even inside his own closed circle,” he said. “Maybe he has more information about the intentions of many high officials around Kadhafi."

Other defections will follow, former immigration minister Ali Errishi told France 24.

"Kussa was his most trusted aide,” he said. “Kadhafi no longer has anybody. It's just him and his kids."

Anti-Kadhafi insurgents suffered military setbacks on Wednesday, being driven back 200 kilometres from the oil town of Ras Lanuf. Rebels say that loyalists appeared to be in control of Brega on Thursday, some claiming that they were riding through the streets, firing at random.

Nato took full command of the 28-nation operation on Thursday, a day late “because of the complexity” of the transfer, according to diplomats.

Ships from the US, France, the UK, Canada and other nations have been enforcing an arms embargo since last week but the military alliance has now taken control of air strike.

But there are still divisions over the operation:

  • US, British, French, Canadian, Danish and Belgian fighter jets have conducted air raids against Kadhafi’s ground forces.
  • But Turkey, Nato's only Muslim-majority member, criticised the scope of the operation and refused to allow its planes to take part in air strikes;
  • And Germany and the Netherlands have contributed planes but will only allow them to fire at other plans not at targets on the ground;
  • Among Arab nations, only Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have contributed airpower.
     

 

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