Troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi knocked back rebels for a third straight day Thursday but there were signs that the embattled regime is cracking at the highest levels: the defection of the second top official in roughly 48 hours.
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 was 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.”
In addition, Al Jazeera television said that “a number of figures” close to Gadhafi had left Libya for Tunis, a day after Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa defected.
Citing unnamed sources, Al Jazeera said the group included the chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation Shokri Ghanem. But earlier Thursday, Ghanem said by phone that he was in Libya: “I am in Tripoli and I am in my office.”
Also named by Al Jazeera were the speaker of Libya’s General People’s Congress Mohamed Abdul Qasim al-Zwai, foreign intelligence chief Abuzeid Dorda and Abdelati al-Obaidi, a senior diplomat in charge of European affairs.
On Wednesday, Koussa flew to England from Tunisia and the British government said he had resigned. He is privy to all the inner workings of the regime, so his departure could open the door for some hard intelligence, though Britain refused to offer him immunity from prosecution. Agencies