afrol News, 31 March - On a flight to the UK, Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa has asked for asylum, saying he wants to leave the Ghaddafi government. Mr Koussa was seen as one of Colonel Ghaddafi's most trusted associates.
British authorities this night confirmed the defection of Mr Koussa, saying they were discussing the possibility of offering the prominent Libyan politician asylum in the UK.
While the defection could be seen as a welcome humiliation of the Ghaddafi regime, supporting Mr Kousa nevertheless is controversial in the UK. Mr Koussa had formerly serves as Libya's Ambassador to the UK, but was expelled from the kingdom after publicly stating he would go after Libyan opposition groups based in the UK.
The defected Libyan Foreign Minister also is widely seen as the mastermind behind the planning of the Lockerbie terror attack in Scotland in December 1998. At the time, he led the Libyan intelligence service, which he run for 15 years until becoming Foreign Minister two years ago.
But Mr Koussa later was also seen as one of the main architects behind Libya's new foreign policies that opened the Ghaddafi regime to the West. Together with Colonel Ghaddafi's son Saif al Islam, he was key to the negotiations to lift international sanction against Libya by taking responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and ending Libya's nuclear arms programme.
Mr Koussa told contacts in the UK that he had been on an official visit, representing the Ghaddafi regime, in Tunisia yesterday. From there, he entered a private jet, asking the pilot to fly him to London. Once in the UK, he told immigration he wanted to defect.
The defection of Libya's Foreign Minister follows equal moves by most of his diplomats abroad. Also Libya's Justice Minister has defected the Ghaddafi regime and is now a central leader in the Benghazi-based rebel movement.
Mr Koussa is seen as the highest ranking Ghaddafi officials to have defected so far, and his defection is a major blow to the regime. The ex-Foreign Minister is believed to be able to provide key information to Libyan rebels and the NATO-led military operation against the Ghaddafi regime.
Libyan authorities so far have rejected the news that Mr Koussa has defected, claiming the Foreign Minister is on a diplomatic mission to the UK.
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