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Blow for Gaddafi as top Libyan diplomat defects

Besides FM, reports say intelligence head flees Libya

The resignation of Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa may help weaken Muammar Gaddafi’s hold on power, even as it may spur the Libyan leader to more radical action by removing one of the few moderating voices left in his inner circle, according to analysts of the region.

Koussa, a former intelligence chief who was among Gaddafi;s closest advisers outside his family, may be able to tell the allies who else among Gaddafi loyalists could be encouraged to leave the regime. He also may deliver information about Libyan terrorist activities, such as the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

A British government source described his resignation as "a significant blow" to Gaddafi and Koussa's predecessor at the ministry said he was "part of the regime's spinal cord ... Koussa is a pillar of the temple."

Koussa is the latest minister to defect after the revolt against Gaddafi's 41-year rule erupted last month and Western-led air strikes began to pound Libyan tanks and artillery being used against rebels fighting to hold territory.

"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," a British Foreign Office spokesman said in a statement.

He crossed the border into Tunisia on Monday and flew from there into Farnborough, a business airport in southeast England.

Koussa isn’t subject to the travel ban imposed by the United Nations Security Council on Gaddafi and other top Libyan officials.

Diplomats abandon Gaddafi

News of the escape of Libya’s intelligence head, Bouzid Dordah, to Tunisia surfaced, Alarabiya TV said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, dozens of Libyan diplomats have abandoned Gaddafi’s regime since an uprising against his rule began last month.

If you were to draw a list of the half dozen people who worked with Gaddafi over the years, there are Gaddafi’s sons and there is Moussa Koussa, Abrams said. We have to hope that he left because he thinks they are doomed.

Even as he lost a close aide, Gaddafi gained a supporter. Miguel DEscoto Brockmann, a former foreign minister of Nicaragua’s socialist Sandinista government and one-time president of the United Nations General Assembly, was named yesterday as the Gaddafi regimes ambassador to the U.N..

DEscoto Brockmann was named to the post because Ali Abdussalam Treki, also a former General Assembly president, couldn’t get a visa to enter the U.S., Libya said in a letter sent by Koussa to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on March 29.

Scotland requests interview

Scottish prosecutors said Thursday they had requested an interview with Kussa over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, following his apparent defection to Britain.

Koussa’s resignation may give a sense of newfound momentum to the Libyans battling Gaddafi’s forces, Danin said.

The opposition fighters, after advancing toward Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, withdrew in the face of artillery and rocket attacks as pro-Qaddafi forces retook control of the oil port of Ras Lanuf. The BBC and New York Times, citing reporters near the Libyan front line, said yesterday opposition fighters were streaming away from Brega and heading northeast, back toward Ajdabiya.