Former PM is latest senior figure to defect from Gaddafi’s side

A FORMER prime minister of Libya became the most senior member of the Gaddafi regime to defect last week.

Abdel Salam Ahmed Jalloud, pictured, a former close associate of the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, and prime minister of Libya between July 1972 and March 1977, defected to the Mediterranean island of Djerba before leaving for Italy.

Jalloud’s flight took off from the Djerba airport early on Friday and rebels attempting to oust Gaddafi confirmed Jalloud had defected.

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Jalloud helped Gaddafi stage the 1969 coup that propelled him to power. He was the colonel’s most trusted deputy for two decades and the regime’s No 2 official but began to clash with the leader in the 1990s.

That Jalloud has given his support to the rebels was not unexpected. He had become isolated from Gaddafi after falling out with him in the early 1990s.

Jalloud was a member of the Free Officers Movement that, along with Gaddafi staged the 1969 bloodless coup, that brought the colonel to power. For many years he had been Libya’s second in command. But after personal disagreements with the volatile Gaddafi he was reportedly stripped of his passport and put under government surveillance.

During his years in government he was regarded as popular figure, both inside and outside of Libya.

Jalloud was also regarded as an important figure when the Free Officers Movement was renamed the Arab Socialist Union in 1971, modelled after Egypt’s Arab Socialist Union, and which became the only legal political party in Libya.

Gaddafi has been hit by several high-profile defections since the uprising began in February in the country’s east, centred on the city of Benghazi. Yesterday it also emerged Libya’s oil chief, Omran Abukraa, is in Tunisia after deciding not to return to Libya from a trip abroad.

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