White House: Libyan defection a "significant blow"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Thursday that the defection of Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa had delivered a “significant blow” to the country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi, and showed his regime was crumbling.

“Moussa Koussa is one of Gaddafi’s most trusted aides who can help provide critical intelligence about Gaddafi’s current state of mind and military plans,” said White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor. “This is a major defection and a significant blow to the Gaddafi regime.”

The former Libyan spy chief flew to Britain on Wednesday, sparking calls for him to face questions over the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing in which 270 people were killed, including a number of Americans.

The White House did not reference the Lockerbie bombing in the statement, which emphasized how the defection highlighted the deepening isolation of Gaddafi.

The United States is part of United Nations’s sanctioned military action to protect Libyan civilians opposing Gaddafi’s 41-year rule from attacks by his loyalist forces.

“The people around Gaddafi have to choose whether to place their bet on a regime that has lost all legitimacy and face grave consequences, or get on the right side of history,” Vietor said. “Moussa Koussa’s decision shows which way the wind is blowing in Tripoli.”

(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Jackie Frank )

White House: Libyan defection a "significant blow"