March 30 (Bloomberg) -- Muammar Qaddafi’s foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, has quit and flown to London, where he was meeting with British officials, a statement by the U.K. Foreign Office said.
“He traveled here under his own free will,” the statement said. “He has told us that he is resigning his post,” after arriving from Tunisia on March 30. Koussa “is one of the most senior figures in Qaddafi’s government, and his role was to represent the regime internationally -- something that he is no longer willing to do.”
Koussa crossed yesterday into Tunisia from Libya through the border post of Ras Jedir, the state-run Tunis Afrique Presse news agency reported, citing its own correspondent. He traveled to Tunisia on a “private visit” and not as an official guest, the agency said, citing unnamed people.
Koussa isn’t subject to the travel ban imposed by the United Nations Security Council on Qaddafi and other top government officials.
The defection is “going to hurt Qaddafi at home,” said Robert Danin, senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, speaking by telephone from Jerusalem. “It’s also going to have the effect, I fear, of further radicalizing Qaddafi, because Moussa Koussa had played such a central role in Libya’s re-engagement with the world, and was trusted by Qaddafi,” he said.
“This is a very big loss for Qaddafi,” said Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “It’s the closest person to him who has defected and he certainly knows where all the bodies are buried, since he buried many of them.”
The U.K. Foreign Office statement encouraged other Qaddafi supporters to “abandon him and embrace a better future for Libya.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Bill Varner in New York at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at firstname.lastname@example.org