June 23, 2011 / 5:14 PM / in 6 years

Leading defector predicts Gaddafi will quit Libya

ROME, June 23 (Reuters) - A former Libyan foreign minister who has defected to the opposition said on Thursday he believed Muammar Gaddafi realise d he c ould no longer stay in Libya and may leave within a few weeks.

Abdurrahaman Shalgam, one of the highest-ranking Libyan defectors, told Corriere della Sera TV he believed Gaddafi was negotiating for asylum with either another African country or Belarus.

“He is manoeuvring for three things -- to leave the country, to have money and to be shielded from the International Criminal Court,” said Shalgam, who still serves as Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations.

“He is manoeuvring to go to another African country or even Belarus because the president there is his friend. I think that he will leave Libya in a few weeks, in two or three weeks at the most.”

Gaddafi has said he would fight to the death.

He sounded a new note of defiance with an audio recording on Thursday, broadcast on Libyan television, in which he called NATO states murderers of innocent civilians and said he would avenge their deaths.

philip.pullella@thomsonreuters.com ; +39 06- 8522 4358; Reuters Messaging: philip.pullella.reuters.com@reuters.net

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