Gaddafi earns pariah status as rebels close in on Tripoli
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's hold on power was nearing its end last night as Libyan rebels closed in on his Tripoli stronghold and Britain gave him pariah status by freezing his family's assets and withdrawing their diplomatic immunity.
A last-gasp attempt by the Libyan leader to prop up his fragile regime with foreign mercenaries was blocked when the Treasury discovered he had ordered fresh currency from a British firm.
The stash of dinars, valued at €1bn, was last night being held in a secure warehouse in the north east of England, after the UK government issued an export order barring its removal. British chancellor George Osborne approved the seizure of assets deposited by the Gaddafi family and members of the Libyan regime. As much as €23bn in liquid assets, including bank accounts and commercial property, is said to be invested in London.
Those subject to the asset freezing order are Col Gaddafi himself, his sons Saif al-Islam, who has been the most public face of the regime, Hannibal, Khamis and Mutassim and daughter Aisha.
Col Gaddafi, his children and his personal servants have also been stripped of their diplomatic immunity from prosecution should they appear in Britain. The UN Security Council has imposed an arms embargo on Libya and also referred the regime for a war crimes investigation.
Taken together they effectively made the Libyan leader an international pariah and left him with few options should he try to flee the country.
On another day of dramatic developments:
- Another 150 civilians were evacuated from desert camps by the RAF last night. Britain's Ministry of Defence said that three RAF C130 Hercules aircraft had taken British nationals as well as foreign civilians from a number of other countries out of "multiple locations" in the eastern Libyan desert.
- In Benghazi, Libya's second biggest city and the first to be "liberated", the regime's interior minister, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who defected a week ago, said he was heading a provisional "national council" that would oversee elections in three months.
- Col Gaddafi's grip on power appeared increasingly precarious, despite his protestations to the contrary, as rebels consolidated their hold the town of Al Zawiya, 30 miles outside of Tripoli.
Britain's Foreign Office said it believed only "small numbers" of Britons remained in Libya following the dramatic rescue by Special Forces of oil workers stranded in the desert.
Following yesterday's rescue, three planes landed in Malta, from where the civilians will be flown back to Britain. The mission was described as "more complicated" than the first one, due to the additional number of sites involved. Americans and citizens of Malta and other European Union members were also taken to safety.
The Security Council has already voted unanimously to refer the brutal repression of the popular uprising to the International Criminal Court and trigger sanctions against Col Gaddafi's regime. Within hours, the Treasury took steps to freeze the ruling family's British assets.
In the US, President Barack Obama blocked the transfer of funds to the Gaddafi family, revoked its diplomatic immunity and severed military ties.
The UN resolution was rejected yesterday, however, by Col Gaddafi as "null and void". He said: "The people of Libya support me, small groups of rebels are surrounded and will be dealt with. (© Daily telegraph, London.)