Africa

Libya minister Abidi urges Gaddafi to resign

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Media captionGen Abdel Fattah Younes al-Abidi : "Put an end to this bloody regime"

One of Col Muammar Gaddafi's most powerful and longest-serving associates has called on him to end his resistance to the uprising against him in Libya.

In a BBC interview, Interior Minister Gen Abdel Fattah Younes al-Abidi says Col Gaddafi's regime is collapsing and will last only a few more days.

Having known the colonel for 47 years, Gen Abidi says he will not surrender.

"Either he will commit suicide or he will resist till he falls," he says.

Assassination attempt?

Gen Abidi was sent to Benghazi at the end of last week to oversee the suppression of the demonstrations here.

Instead, he rang Col Gaddafi and persuaded him not to use warplanes to crush the protesters.

After this evidence that he was changing sides, there seems to have been an attempt to assassinate him.

Col Gaddafi actually announced the general's death in a speech on Libyan television, but it was a bodyguard who died instead, in a shooting incident in Benghazi.

All this persuaded the general to come over to the uprising. At present, he is living in a secret house on the outskirts of Benghazi. I was taken there to meet him.

He appealed to Col Gaddafi to stop fighting the uprising.

"My dear brother," he said, "when Benghazi fell, you should have realised that the end had come. I hoped you would leave for Venezuela or somewhere else."

"May God show you the righteous way, and stop the annihilation of our people."

Having turned against him after nearly 50 years of friendship and service, Gen Abidi now accepts that Col Gaddafi may actually be mad.

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"He takes very dangerous decisions in a state of anger. It is impossible to think he is completely sane."

Lockerbie role

Soon after the revolution of 1969, in which he took part, Gen Abidi started to form Libya's special forces. He became interior minister three years ago, as one of Col Gaddafi's closest associates and supporters.

His control over the special forces and his key ministry make him one of the most powerful men in Libya. Now, it seems, he wants to play a part in some future government here.

Nevertheless, many people in opposition to Col Gaddafi seem to doubt his suitability.

A man who has been so closely associated with the regime will find it hard to persuade anyone that he is going to represent a clean break with the past.

Gen Abidi does, however, know how the old regime operated.

Although he was a military man rather than a politician at the time of the Lockerbie bombing in the 1980s, he maintains that Col Gaddafi was personally responsible for the decision to blow up the Pan Am flight.

"There is no doubt about it," he told me. "Nothing happens without Gaddafi's agreement. I'm sure this was a national, governmental decision."

It is a fierce blow at the system which, until a few days ago, Gen al-Abidi had supported for decades.