Libya: Six of Gaddafi's Henchmen 'Set to Defect'; Libya Defector 'Won't Be Given Immunity from Prosecution'

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Byline: Nicholas Cecil , Joe Murphy

BRITAIN is in secret talks with at least six more of Colonel Gaddafi's henchmen to desert him, The Standard reveals today.

A Government source said: "We are talking about half a dozen people in key positions" After the Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa fled to London, Foreign Secretary William Hague urged more senior officials in Gaddafi's regime to realise the game was up.

He said: "His resignation shows that Gaddafi's regime, which has already seen significant defections to the opposition, is fragmented, under pressure and crumbling from within. Gaddafi must be asking himself: 'Who will be the next to abandon him?'.

"We encourage all those around Gaddafi to abandon him and embrace the better future for Libya that allows political transition and real reform that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people."

Washington sources today confirmed that small teams of CIA agents had been dropped into Libya.

President Obama was reported to have signed an order allowing them to launch covert operations to support the rebels. British SAS teams and MI6 agents are also in Libya.

The rebels today came under fresh bombardment and were forced back towards Ajdibaya as Gaddafi's forces continued their advances easttward, winning back much of the ground they had lost in earlier days.

British Tornado jets destroyed three tanks, armoured vehicles and surfaceto-air missile sites in strikes yesterday. Families of Lockerbie victims welcomed Mr Koussa's arrival in Britain, hoping it will finally reveal the

full story behind the bombing. Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the atrocity, said: "Koussa was at the centre of Gaddafi's inner circle. This is a guy who knows everything. This is a fantastic day for those who seek the truth about Lockerbie."

Mr Hague stressed that Mr Koussa, who has been described as one of the masterminds behind the bombing, was not being offered any immunity from prosecution under British or international laws.

The former foreign minister is already being investigated by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. His decision to flee Tripoli and head for London via Tunisia is a major blow to Gaddafi.

Britain's Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards said Mr Koussa's arrival in Britain was "positive".

Arriving at a National Security Council meeting on Thursday morning, he said: "It's all about psychology. It can't be helpful to Gaddafi."

Mr Koussa is understood to have made his own way to Tunisia and contact was then made with British officials including MI6 officers. He was being debriefed by Foreign Office officials today.

Former foreign secretary Jack Straw sparked speculation that Mr Koussa had been working for British intelligence but this suggestion was played down.

David Cameron was warned against striking a deal with Mr Koussa to allow him to escape justice and stay in Britain. …