LIBYA: Foreign embassies defect
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Numerous Libyan embassies switched allegiances this week, with more declaring support for the rebel government Wednesday.
At the Libyan embassy in Manilla, Libyan diplomats and students smashed portraits of Moammar Kadafi, shouted “Game over!” and raised the rebel flag, the Associated Press reported, as Libyan Consul Faraj Zarroug said that about 85% of his country’s 165 diplomatic missions now recognized the rebels’ interim government, the National Transitional Council.
“It’s game over for Mr. Kadafi!” Zarroug said. “Probably in a few days, everything will be over, hopefully. I’m very happy.”
Libyan missions to Switzerland and Bangladesh switched soon after the rebellion in February, but embassy officials in Japan and Ethiopia only replaced the government flag with the rebels’ tricolor on Monday, according to the Associated Press.
The Libyan ambassador to the African Union, Ali Awidan, said he raised the new rebel flag Monday, changing sides at the last moment.
“I was not serving Gadhafi, I have been serving Libya,” he told the Associated Press in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
A group of Libyans briefly took over their embassy in the Bosnian capital on Monday, raising the rebel flag and demanding that the ambassador resign before police removed them peacefully. On Wednesday, Ambassador Salem Finnir said his embassy was under rebel control. “I hope that soon the bloodshed will be over and that peace, democracy and prosperity will rule our beloved country Libya,” he told the Associated Press, as his two sons raised the new flag on the embassy roof.
In Athens, the Greek foreign minister posted a statement recognizing the interim rebel government as Libya’s legitimate leadership, the Associated Press reported. Police stood guard at the nearby Libyan Embassy, which had no flags flying, its windows shuttered.
The Libyan ambassador to Turkey, Ziad Muntasser, told the country’s Cumhuriyet newspaper in an interview that he had backed the rebels for the last six months but did not publicly reveal his defection because he feared for his family’s safety in Tripoli.
“I reject accusations that I am Kadafi’s man,” he said. “I had a private reason: A large section of my family was living in Tripoli which was under Kadafi’s control.”
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske