Leading defector predicts Gaddafi will quit Libya

ROME Thu Jun 23, 2011 1:15pm EDT

Muammar Gaddafi gestures as he speaks at a Tripoli hotel in this still image from a video by Libyan TV released May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Libyan TV via Reuters TV

Muammar Gaddafi gestures as he speaks at a Tripoli hotel in this still image from a video by Libyan TV released May 11, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Libyan TV via Reuters TV

ROME (Reuters) - A former Libyan foreign minister who has defected to the opposition said on Thursday he believed Muammar Gaddafi realized he could 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 maneuvering 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 maneuvering 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.

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