LIBYAN Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Ta-her Elmagrahi faces deportation after Government yesterday said his defection to the NATO-backed National Transitional Council means he no longer respresents the Libyan Government.
Zimbabwe has no diplomatic relations with rebels who now claim to be in control of Libya.
The rebels this week claimed to have taken control of Libya after its leader Muammar Gaddafi reportedly fled and his whereabouts are still unknown.
Ambassador Elmagrahi defected to the rebels on Wednesday and hoisted the NTC flag at the Libyan Embassy in Harare.
The latest development means the envoy loses his diplomatic privileges.
In an interview yesterday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Ambassador Joey Bimha said NTC had no legal status in Harare.
“NTC is not accredited to Harare. If they say they now recognise the NTC it means they are no longer representing the interests of the Libyan Government in Zimbabwe,” he said.
A senior Government official yesterday said: “If he remains defiant, he faces deportation. We do not have diplomatic relations with NTC and the hoisting of its flag here is actually illegal.”
NTC’s red, black and green flag was flying for the second day in Harare yesterday.
Mr Elmagrahi wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announcing his defection on Wednesday.
He then ordered the pulling down of the Libyan flag, replacing it with that of the rebels.
He also witnessed the destruction of President Gaddafi’s portraits by Libyans resident in Zimbabwe.
Mr Elmagrahi defended his decision saying he was following the will of the people.
“We have a transition. We will follow our friendship with them (Zimbabwe). We will respect all our agreements with them.
“I represent all Libyans. I follow what they want. When they are like this, I follow them. I follow what they chose,” he said.
In Libya, the NTC is already laying the groundwork for a takeover from Gaddafi with its leadership flying to European capitals for assistance.
Head of the NTC Mr Mahmoud Jibril was in France on Wednesday where he met President Nicholas Sarkozy.
He pleaded with the French leader to release billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets.
He was set to meet Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi yesterday for the same reasons.
On the other hand, the UN Security Council is preparing to vote on a resolution unfreezing about US$1,5 billion in Libyan assets reportedly for urgent humanitarian assistance.
The US is behind the move that is being opposed by South Africa.
South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe says the International Criminal Court should probe possible human rights violations committed by NATO forces in Libya.
The New Age newspaper reported yesterday that Motlanthe told Parliament that the NATO alliance is creating an impression that the Libyan rebels are acting on their own without any military support on the ground.
“We note they (NATO) are attempting to create the impression that the rebels are acting on their own in their attacks in Tripoli but there are clear links and co-ordination at that level,” Motlanthe told parliament on Wednesday in response to lawmakers’ questions.
“The question is whether the (court) will have the wherewithal to unearth that information and bring those who are responsible to book, including the NATO commanders on the ground,” the South African Press quoted him as saying.
His comments may be interpreted as another indication that South Africa is going to have a cold relationship with the rebel movement that is poised to take over the government in Libya, the New Age said.
South Africa, a temporary member of the UN Security Council, voted in favour of the air exclusion zone over Libya which has enabled air strikes under NATO command.
While the US, Britain and France pushed for the adoption of resolution 1973 at the council, these countries had abused the resolution.
“It creates a problem for future interventions,” Motlanthe said.
“As you are aware, the situation in Syria is also of great concern, but precisely because of this precedent created in Libya the Security Council is not being able to agree on how to intervene there.”
South African President Zuma on Tuesday said the NATO-led use of force has undermined Africa’s peace efforts.
South African Press Association reported that Motlanthe said the air strikes have made it more difficult to adopt new UN resolutions.
In other developments, a group of rebels yesterday besieged a cluster of apartment buildings near Gaddafi’s compound.
The rebels believed that the embattled leader is hiding in those buildings together with some of his sons. They exchanged fire with Gaddafi loyalists inside the buildings. However, his whereabouts remain unknown.
Instead Gaddafi issued an audio message broadcast on Syria-based Arrai Oruba television calling for an armed struggle to defeat the “enemies” and to “liberate Tripoli.”
The message said: “We must resist these enemy rats, who will be defeated thanks to the armed struggle. Leave your homes and liberate Tripoli,” he added.
France and its partners in the UN Security Council were yesterday drafting a resolution to unfreeze Libyan assets blocked by UN sanctions, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said yesterday.
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