'Heir' to Libyan throne returns from exile
Published 24/12/2011 | 05:00
A prince who claims to be heir to the throne of Libya has returned to his country with "joy" in his heart after 42 years of exile.
Prince Idris al-Senussi left a "humiliating" existence in Italy and flew home using a passport of royal vintage, issued during the reign of his kinsman, King Idris.
He landed in a country where the green, red and black national flag dating from the era when Libya was a monarchy is flying once again.
The rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi took place under these colours and the country's new rulers have formally abolished the all-green banner introduced by the fallen dictator. They have also chosen to restore the national anthem of royal Libya.
Prince Idris said that his return after most of his lifetime of exile in Rome was the "greatest joy of my life, apart from the birth of my children".
He spent his first day in Libya yesterday visiting the palace where the royal household lived until they were driven out of the country in 1969.
Prince Idris, then 12, became an Italian citizen and a tenacious opponent of Gaddafi's regime. In 1991 he was accused of organising a failed attempt to kill the dictator, who retaliated by putting him on a death list.
Prince Idris said he would not be campaigning for the restoration of the monarchy. "I'm not making any political statement. I'm going to visit friends, relatives and to bring my children to see their country," he said. "I want to participate in building a democratic civil society."
As to the future shape of Libyan politics, Prince Idris said: "I will abide by whatever the Libyan people choose to do. I will follow them.
"For me, the most important thing is that Libya returns to be a free country. I will be very touched to see all the Libyans free after so many years of despotism."
The 54-year-old prince, who spent his first night in a hotel, added: "I always believed I would go back to Libya."
Prince Idris's claim to the throne is controversial. He is only distantly related to King Idris, who died in 1983. He faces a rival, Prince Mohammed al-Senussi, the 39-year-old son of Libya's last crown prince. (© Daily Telegraph, London)