UK: Libyan Foreign Minister set to resign
The US was trying to confirm that Koussa had defected but had no reason to doubt the British statement.
London: Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa arrived in the UK and is resigning from his post, Britain's government said.
Koussa arrived from Tunisia at Farnborough Airport, about 55 kms southwest of London, the Foreign Office said in a statement, adding that he travelled to Britain under his own free will.
"He has told us that he is resigning from his post," the statement said. "We are discussing this with him and we will release further details in due course."
Moussa Ibrahim, a Libyan government spokesman, denied that the foreign minister has defected saying he was in London on a "diplomatic mission."
"He is on a diplomatic mission. He has not defected," Ibrahim told reporters in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
It was not immediately possible to confirm either statement with Koussa or people close to him.
Libya's justice and interior ministers resigned early in the conflict and joined the rebels fighting in the east. If Koussa's resignation is confirmed, however, it would be the first high-profile resignation since the US-led airstrikes on Libyan forces began and would deal a major blow to Gaddafi's inner circle.
With strong support from Britain, France and other countries, the military intervention has UN Security Council backing in a bid to prevent Gaddafi's forces from attacking civilians.
There have been several shifts of momentum on the battlefield, with the rebel forces suffering setbacks on Wednesday after gaining ground the day before, as Western countries try to find a way to oust Libya's leader.
British officials urged Gaddafi's other supporters to desert him.
"We encourage those around Gaddafi to abandon him and embrace a better future for Libya that allows political transition and real reform that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people," the Foreign Office statement said, indicating that discussions with Koussa would be ongoing.
A US official who is not authorised to speak publicly said the US was trying to confirm that Koussa had defected but had no reason to doubt the British statement.
"If this is true we would welcome it and we would encourage others to follow and heed the calls of the Libyan people for their aspirations to be met," the official said.
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