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UK questions Libyan foreign minister

     Libya's Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa speaking at a conference, 7 March 2011 Moussa Koussa is quitting Col Gaddafi's regime, UK officials say Britain says it has not offered Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa immunity from prosecution following his unexpected arrival in the country. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said Mr Koussa had resigned and the Gaddafi regime was "crumbling from within".
    British officials are questioning Mr Koussa, a former head of intelligence who was close to Col Gaddafi.
    The development comes as Libyan rebels continue to retreat from recently captured towns along the eastern coast.
    A column of retreating rebel fighters came under heavy fire between Brega and Ajdabiya on Thursday. The rebels had earlier lost the key oil port of Ras Lanuf and the nearby town of Bin Jawad.
    In the west, the rebel-held town of Misrata is still reportedly coming under attack from pro-Gaddafi troops.
    On Thursday Mr Hague said Mr Koussa had flown to the UK of his own free will late on Wednesday.
    "His resignation shows that Gaddafi's regime, which has already seen significant defections to the opposition, is fragmented, under pressure and crumbling from within," he told reporters.
    "Gaddafi must be asking himself who will be the next to abandon him."
    Mr Hague urged others close to Col Gaddafi to "embrace the better future for Libya".
    The Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed that Libya's foreign minister Moussa Koussa will not get immunity from prosecution
    Earlier the Foreign Office said he had arrived at Farnborough airport, west of London, on Wednesday evening.
    A spokesperson said: "Moussa 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."
    UK intelligence officials hope that his deep knowledge of the Libyan regime will help bring about its early end, says BBC diplomatic correspondent Humphrey Hawksley.
    Mr Koussa arrived in the UK on what is believed to have been a British military plane, our correspondent adds.
    However, a Libyan spokesman denied that Mr Koussa had defected and said he was on a diplomatic mission.

    Moussa Koussa's career

    • 1979-80: De facto ambassador in London
    • 1984: Assigned to the Mathaba, Libya's anti-imperialist centre
    • 1994: Appointed head of intelligence
    • 2009: Appointed foreign minister; reportedly resigns 30 March 2011 
    Helping the rebels?
    Meanwhile, US media reports say President Barack Obama has authorised covert support for the Libyan rebels.
    The CIA and White House have both declined to comment on the reports.
    Mr Obama and other coalition leaders have said they are not ruling out supplying weapons to the rebels.
    The BBC's Ben Brown, in the eastern coastal town of Ajdabiya, says the rebels simply cannot compete with the discipline and firepower of Col Gaddafi's forces.
    He says the current situation is a dramatic about-turn for the rebels who over the weekend had seized a string of towns along the coast and seemed to be making good progress, with the help of coalition air strikes.
    In terms of the defection of Moussa Koussa, the view of many Libyans is that Col Gaddafi operates a one-man-band dictatorship, and the defection of a minister - while certainly not good news - is survivable for Gaddafi.
    After all, this revolution is led by another defecting minister, Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil, and Col Gaddafi seems pretty much to have shrugged off his defection.
    What Col Gaddafi really relies on is an inner core of people who are led by his sons and other members of his family and clan. It is their loyalty that is really crucial.
    Most reports suggested the rebels had fled back to Ajdabiya, and some witnesses said civilians had begun to flee further east towards the rebel-held city of Benghazi.
    Maj Gen Suleiman Mahmoud, the second-in-command for the rebels, told the BBC that rebels forces needed time, patience and help to organise themselves.
    "Our problem [is] we need help - communication, radios, we need weapons," he said, adding that the rebels had a strategy but fighters did not always obey orders.
    Early on Thursday, Nato took sole command of international air operations over Libya.
    The alliance says it has the means to enforce the UN resolution aimed at protecting civilians from Col Gaddafi's forces.
    France and the US say they are sending envoys to Benghazi to meet the interim administration.
    Earlier this week, an international conference on Libya in London agreed to set up a contact group involving Arab governments to co-ordinate help for a post-Gaddafi Libya.
    Several thousand people have been killed and thousands wounded since the uprising against Col Gaddafi's rule began more than six weeks ago.

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UK questions Libyan foreign minister

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