Another senior Libyan official resigns

Image: Libya's Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa is seen speaking during a news conference at a hotel housing the foreign press in Tripoli in this March 7, 2011 file photograph.
Libya's Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, who has defected, should be questioned over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, say British relatives of the victims.CHRIS HELGREN / Reuters file
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

A senior Libyan official said Thursday he is resigning his post, the second high-profile defection from Moammar Gadhafi's regime in as many days.

Ali Abdessalam Treki, a former foreign minister and U.N. General Assembly president, had been named to represent Libya at the United Nations after a wave of defections early in the uprising. But Treki, who is currently in Cairo, said in a statement posted on several opposition websites that he's not going to accept that job or any other.

"We should not let our country fall into an unknown fate," he said. "It is our nation's right to live in freedom, democracy and a good life."

The announcement comes a day after ex-Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa flew to England and told the British government he was resigning as well. The defections are a sign the regime is cracking at the highest levels and give a boost to Libyan rebels after a string of military setbacks in the east.

Treki did not give more details, but Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's U.N. deputy ambassador whose early defection to the opposition spurred defections around the world, said the announcement was made Thursday morning.

"Now, we are sure he took a position and he is no longer in the service of the regime," Dabbashi told The Associated Press. "He is a little bit late. We expected him to take this position maybe 10 days ago or so, but anyway it is never too late. It is good that he joined the Libyan people and to announce his defection of the regime."

Abdel-Moneim al-Houni, the former Arab League representative in Cairo, said Treki had intended to announce his position three weeks ago, but needed time.

Al-Houni, who also resigned early in the Libyan uprising that began Feb. 15, also welcomed Koussa's decision to resign and said more defections could be expected in coming days.

"Koussa is one of the pillars of Gadhafi's regime since the 1970s. His defection means that he knew that the end of Gadhafi is coming and he wanted to jump from the sinking boat."

Koussa is not being offered immunity from prosecution, British Foreign Minister William Hague said Thursday, as relatives of those killed in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing called for him to face justice.

Hague told a news conference that the defection of Koussa would encourage others close to Gadhafi to quit the Libyan leader's regime amid the country's ongoing revolt. "Gadhafi must be asking himself who will be the next to abandon him," he said.

Hague said Koussa, who flew into a British military airbase Wednesday, was voluntarily talking to British officials and had not been offered any immunity from British or international prosecution.

The former head of the CIA's investigation into the Lockerbie bombing told msnbc.com Thursday that he had "no doubt" Koussa had been involved in planning the 19 88 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people, including many Americans, and also the bombing of a French airliner in central Africa in which 170 people died.

Koussa was a senior Libyan intelligence official at the time and was promoted to head of its intelligence services in 1994.

But Sir Richard Dalton, an expert on Libya based at the London think tank Chatham House, said the idea that Koussa was the mastermind of the Lockerbie bombing was a "totally unsubstantiated" allegation, saying it was not mentioned at Abdel Baset al-Megrahi's trial. Al-Megrahi, a former Libyan security service agent, was convicted of the bombing by a Scottish court in 2001.

Dalton, who was a British diplomat from 1970 to 2006 and U.K. ambassador to Libya from 1999 to 2002, said Koussa was "extremely central to many of the negotiations on matters of vital importance to British interests, including the settlement of all the issues around Lockerbie."

He said Libya had not been linked to international terrorism from 1995 onwards.

'Horrible human being'Susan Cohen, 73, of New Jersey, whose daughter Theodora was killed in the Lockerbie bombing, said Koussa was a "a very evil man ... a horrible human being."

She told msnbc.com that he should face a straight choice: Provide evidence implicating Gadhafi personally in the attack or be put on trial.

"If Moussa Koussa is to get anything out of this, Moussa Koussa has to absolutely give all the information, very specific information (about the Lockerbie bombing)," she said.

"He has to do this, otherwise he should be tried and I personally think he should be executed," Cohen added.

But, she said, "the most important thing is to get Gadhafi" and she would be prepared for a deal to be made with Koussa to achieve that.

"If they can get Moussa Koussa to help them get Gadhafi, that's fine ... the major monster is Moammar Gadhafi," she said.

'Blood on his hands'Vince Cannistraro, formerly the CIA official who headed the agency's investigation into Lockerbie, said he was convinced Koussa was involved in planning the bombings of Pan Am 103 and the French airliner.

But he said Koussa had been "carrying out Gadhafi's orders."

"In terms of ultimate responsibility, it was Moammar Gadhafi," he said.

Cannistraro added that Koussa was also involved in killings of Libyan dissidents in the U.K. and Italy in the 1980s and Gadhafi's opponents in Libya.

He said his personal view was Koussa should face justice in Libya, assuming the country emerges from the current conflict with the rebels in charge.

"Clearly Moussa Koussa has a lot of blood on his hands and is not going to be the subject of much love from whatever opposition emerges in Libya," Cannistraro said.

"It's up to the Libyans to deal with Moussa Koussa because of the long service he gave to Moammar Gadhafi and the killing of Libyans," he said.

Cannistraro noted that Koussa was likely "providing information right now to the British government about what's going on in Libya, about Gadhafi, that may help the present coalition enforcing the U.N. Security Council resolution."

John Mosey, a member of the U.K. Families Flight 103 group, told msnbc.com Thursday that he still had doubts that Libyans were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, despite al-Megrahi's conviction. Mosey said he had suspicions that a Palestinian terrorist group was responsible instead.

"Having said that … Mr. Megrahi is a convicted mass murderer. That's on the record book," Mosey told msnbc.com. "If he is guilty, then Mr. Moussa Koussa was his boss and if that's the case he should be in the dock and if there's evidence to convict him, he should be convicted. He really ought to be in custody."

Mosey's daughter Helga, 19, died in the bombing.

'Lies and deception'He said he hoped Koussa would be able to provide new information about the attack, but said anything he said would have to be treated with extreme caution.

"This man is a spook and his whole life has been based on lies and deception. I wouldn't believe him if he told me the time," Mosey said.

"We're not sure if he has abandoned the regime. He says he has. What's his agenda? Is he looking to cut a deal?" Mosey added. "He’s got good reason to say certain things and will tell people what they want to hear. But who knows what will come out? Sometimes wicked people do tell the truth."

Mosey wondered if Koussa, who has a sociology degree from Michigan State University, was hoping to disassociate himself from Gadhafi so that he could became part of any new regime set up after the dictator's fall.

He expressed doubts that Koussa would be prosecuted because of the current situation in Libya.

"I think they will get as much information out of him (as they can) and make sure he can spend a peaceful life … in anonymity in some other part of the world," Mosey said.

"To me, that's the most likely thing to happen. It is a great pity … it shows the duplicity of our political systems. They will compromise to encourage others to defect," he added.

Another British relative of a victim, Jim Swire, told the U.K.'s Sky News that he was "jubilant" about Koussa's presence in Britain.

He said he met Koussa in Libya in 1991 in what was at first a "scary interrogation" that ended with them parting on "reasonably good terms."

Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed, said he had contacted his lawyers in the hope he would be able to speak to Koussa.

Swire told Sky he had also contacted prosecutors in Scotland.

He said the prosecutors "keep telling us they have an ongoing, active investigation" and therefore police officers should be sent to interview Koussa.

"I don't know whether he was involved in my daughter's murder or not," he said.

Hague told the news conference that Koussa had been his channel of communication to Gadhafi's government in recent weeks and he had spoken regularly to him.

"He said that he is resigning his post. We are discussing this with him. We encourage those around Gadhafi to abandon him," Hague said.

"His resignation shows that Gadhafi's regime, which has already seen significant defections to the opposition, is fragmented, under pressure and crumbling from within," Hague added.

Noman Benotman, a friend of Koussa and analyst at Britain's Quilliam think tank, said the foreign minister had defected because he opposed government attacks on civilians.