UNITED NATIONS — Most high-level Libyan officials are trying to defect but are under tight security and having difficulty leaving the country, a top Libyan diplomat now supporting the opposition said Thursday.
Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy U.N. ambassador, told The Associated Press that Libya's U.N. Mission, which now totally supports the opposition, knew two days in advance that Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa planned to defect on Wednesday.
He said the mission had been waiting for about 10 days for Thursday's defection of Ali Abdessalam Treki, a former foreign minister selected by Moammar Gadhafi to be the new U.N. ambassador.
"We know that most of the high Libyan officials are trying to defect, but most of them are under tight security measures and they cannot leave the country, but we are sure that many of them will benefit from the first chance to be out of the country and to defect," Dabbashi said.
"I don't think it is easy," he said. "But anyway, who has the will, he will find the way."
Dabbashi wouldn't name any senior Libyans considering defecting, saying only "we have some indications that some others will defect."
Asked why senior Libyan officials are defecting – or want to defect – now instead of last month when opposition protests against Gadhafi's 41-year rule began, Dabbashi said it was a reaction to the regime's attacks on civilians.
"The normal human behavior is to disconnect from this regime," he said.
Dabbashi said Koussa's defection in Britain is especially significant because he was the chief of external intelligence for about eight years and foreign minister for about two years.
"This is a big blow to the regime," he said.
"I think that he has a lot of secret information about the regime – about the current operations by Libya during the last decades," Dabbashi said. "I think also he knows a lot, has a lot of information about what's happening in Libya since Feb. 15."
He said the defection of Treki in Cairo "is important news also."
"He is a little bit late ... but anyway it is never too late. It is good that he joined the Libyan people and to announce his defection of the regime," Dabbashi said.
Before Koussa's defection, the Nicaraguan government said he sent a letter appointing Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, a former priest who served as Nicaragua's first foreign minister after the 1979 triumph of the Sandinista revolution, as Libya's new U.N. ambassador.
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said Nicaragua's U.N. Mission has rescheduled a news conference with D'Escoto for Friday. A news conference scheduled for Thursday was canceled without explanation.
Haq said the United Nations hasn't officially received any letter from Libya regarding a change of credentials involving D'Escoto.
He said the U.N. did receive a copy of a note from Nicaragua addressed to all U.N. missions which attached a copy of Koussa's letter to the secretary-general – but he stressed that the U.N. has never received that letter.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said Wednesday that D'Escoto needs a G-1 visa – the American visa required for diplomatic representation – if he wants to represent Libya.
If he tries to do so on the tourist visa he now holds, she warned, "he will soon have his visa status reviewed."
Although D'Escoto was born in Los Angeles, California, and once held dual citizenship, Rice said he has renounced his U.S. citizenship.
Associated Press writer Anita Snow contributed to this report.