Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Official Libyan sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi imposed a travel ban on senior Libyan governmental figures since the beginning of the popular uprising against him, fearing their defection. This revelation comes against the backdrop of the defection of former Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, who fled to the UK on Thursday.
Kusa said that he was “no longer willing” to represent Colonel Gaddafi’s regime; he is the most senior figure to defect from the Gaddafi regime since the popular uprising against him began in February. The Libyan regime attempted to play down the former foreign minister’s defection, with government spokesman Musa Ibrahim saying “this is not a happy piece of news, but people are saying ‘so what?’ If someone wants to step down that’s his decision.” Ibrahim added “He [Kusa] is tired and exhausted. He is an old man. His heart and body cannot take the pressure.”
Sources close to Gaddafi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Libyan leader was speechless upon hearing the news of Musa Kusa’s defection, describing Gaddafi’s reaction as being one of deep shock. The sources, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, claimed that Kusa travelled to Tunisia as part of an official mission on behalf of the Gaddafi regime, to carry out talks with western coalition states with the objective of finding a political solution to the current crisis. However after these talks reached a stalemate, Kusa decided to resign from his post as Libyan foreign minister, defecting from the Gaddafi regime, in the belief that the Libyan regime is on the verge of collapse.
The same sources also claimed that Libyan intelligence Chief Bouzeid Dorda, Libyan parliamentary speaker Abu al-Qasim al-Zawi, Libyan Prime Minister Dr. al-Baghdadi al-Mahmudi, are all in the process of defecting from the Gaddafi regime. The sources claimed that the three senior government figures al informed close aides of their intention to defect during the recent period.
Asharq Al-Awsat also learnt that Dr. Shokri Ghanem, the chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation, informed some of his aides, in addition to the heads of a number of foreign oil companies, that he is not satisfied with the recent developments in the country, and the manner in which Gaddafi is dealing with the popular uprising against him.
The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaddafi is feeling isolated and alone, and that his personal behavior has changed since his last public appearance last Tuesday. The sources stressed that Gaddafi has not given any signs that he is willing to surrender, and stressed that he considers fleeing the country to be a last resort.
In a written statement published on Libyan state television yesterday, Gaddafi warned the western forces that the air strikes being carried out against his country could incite a war between Muslims and Christians which might quickly spiral out of control. His statement said that “if these [air strikes] continue, then the world will be entering a genuine crusader war. They have started something dangerous that cannot be controlled.”
The statement added “the rulers who have decided to launch a crusader war between Muslims and Christians across the Mediterranean have contravened international law and the UN Charter, causing destruction in North Africa and killing a huge number of Libyan civilians….they have gone power mad and went to impose the law of force upon the force of law.”
This statement appeared on Libyan state television; however Gaddafi has not appeared in public since last week. Libyan officials also said that Gaddafi has changed his daily schedule after his main headquarters was hit by an airstrike.