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Opposition Hopes to Gain Information from Libyan Defector

A rebel lashes a high-caliber machine gun, fitted with boots, to the roof of a car with a shoelace at a checkpoint, west of Ajdabiyah, March 31, 2011

A member of the rebels fighting forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi says members of the Transitional Council have begun efforts to gain “strategic” information from defecting Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa in their objective to force the embattled leader from power.

Awad Juma says recent defections are, in his words, the beginning of the end of Gadhafi’s over four-decade year rule.

“I don’t think a foreign minister defecting [from] his government is insignificant. The guy [Moussa Koussa] has got a lot of information to tell; he’s got information about [the 1988 Pan Am] Lockerbie bombing. He was [the] hand to carry out a lot of dirty jobs for Gadhafi. So, saying it is not significant, I think Gadhafi is playing down the loss as if it’s not important,” Juma said.

“They [Transitional Council] are already trying to get in touch with him [Moussa Koussa]. But, he is watching his steps carefully because he didn’t declare that he is joining the rebels yet. I don’t know if he wants some guarantees,” he added.

Juma says the defections are growing signs of weakness of the Gadhafi administration despite its sharp denial that the defections have had no effect on the ongoing crisis.

“There is Ali Treki [who] refused appointment to replace the representative to the United Nations. He declared his resignation from Gadhafi’s regime. And, this is another beginning of his fall because they have been with him for 42 years,” Juma said.

“We know that Gadhafi is holding the whole cabinet at gunpoint in his barracks with their families. Even if one of them goes on a mission, he goes by himself, while his family is held at gunpoint until they come back. This sounds like fiction, but this is what Gadhafi does,” he added.

Libya's FM Moussa Koussa holds a news conference in Tripoli Mar 18 2011
Libya's FM Moussa Koussa holds a news conference in Tripoli Mar 18 2011

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has repeated his strong opposition to putting any American forces in Libya.

Gates insisted Thursday there will be no U.S. military boots on the ground “as long as I am in this job.” He spoke as U.S. media reported that the Central Intelligence Agency has small teams working with anti-government rebels in the North African country,

Reports say the teams were sent to gather intelligence and make contact with opposition forces. Gates said he could not “speak for the CIA” about its role. He acknowledged the United States has information only “on a handful of [the] rebels” trying to topple Gadhafi.

Gates told a U.S. congressional hearing that political and economic pressures will eventually drive Gadhafi from power. He says the NATO-led operation now under way can degrade the Libyan leader's military capacity, but that Gadhafi's removal will happen only over time and by his own people.