'Gaddafi to leave in a few weeks'

A FORMER Libyan foreign minister who has defected to the opposition said he believed Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi realised he could no longer stay in Libya and may leave within a few weeks.

Abdurrahaman Shalgam, one of the highest-ranking Libyan defectors, said he believed Col Gaddafi was negotiating for asylum with either another African country or Belarus.

"He is manoeuvring for three things - to leave the country, to have money and to be shielded from the International Criminal Court," said Mr Shalgam, who still serves as Libya's ambassador to the United Nations.

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"He is manoeuvring to go to another African country or even Belarus because the president there is his friend. I think he will leave Libya in a few weeks, in two or three weeks at the most."

However, Col Gaddafi sounded a new note of defiance with an audio recording yesterday, broadcast on Libyan television, in which he called Nato states murderers of innocent civilians and said he would avenge their deaths.

Meanwhile, international judges said they will rule next week on whether to order the arrest of Col Gaddafi for allegedly orchestrating deadly attacks on civilians, a decision that could turn the embattled strongman into a prisoner in his own country.

A judicial panel of the court will announce on Monday whether it will issue arrest warrants for Col Gaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo alleges that Col Gaddafi's forces attacked civilians in their homes, shot at demonstrators, shelled funeral processions and deployed snipers to kill people leaving mosques during the violent crackdown on rebels fighting to end his more than four-decade rule.

An arrest warrant would turn Col Gaddafi into an internationally wanted war crimes suspect liable to be detained, if he ever ventured outside Libya.

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