FOREIGN Secretary Hague announced the expulsion of all Libyan diplomats from the UK yesterday.
He also announced that the counter-revolutionary NTC (National Transitional Council) ‘rebels’ were now the Libyan ‘government authority’ and invited it to send an envoy to occupy the Libyan Embassy in Knightsbridge, west London.
He added that he was ‘unfreezing’ assets worth £91 million belonging to a Libyan oil company and handing it over to the NTC.
He however could not guarantee that the thousands of Libyan students in britain would continue to receive their allowances.
At a press conference in the Foreign Office, Hague said: ‘The prime minister and I have decided that the United Kingdom recognises and will deal with the National Transitional Council as the sole governmental authority in Libya.
‘This decision reflects the National Transitional Council’s increasing legitimacy, competence and success in reaching out to Libyans across the country.’
He continued: ‘In line with this decision, we summoned the Libyan charge d’affaires here to the Foreign Office this morning and informed him that he and other diplomats from the Gadaffi regime must now leave the United Kingdom.
‘We no longer recognise them as the representatives of the Libyan government and we are inviting the National Transitional Council to appoint a new Libyan diplomatic envoy to take over the Libyan Embassy in London.’
Currently eight Libyan diplomats remain at the embassy.
The Foreign Office said the charge d’affaires, Khaled Benshaban, would be given three days to leave – while the others would be decided on a ‘case-by-case basis’.
Hague said a recent meeting of the Libya ‘contact group’ in Istanbul had decided to treat the NTC as the legitimate government authority in Libya and the UK was responding to that.
Hague said the change meant the UK would give ‘greater practical assistance than we’ve been able to give so far’ to the NTC.
Hague said he was working with the NTC and Libyan banks and would do ‘all we can’ to ensure Libyan students in the UK continue to receive the funds currently paid for by the Libyan embassy.
He said that more work will be done over the next few weeks to unfreeze more Libyan assets in the UK, including stocks of currency and other assets of the Libyan central bank to hand over to the NTC.
Hague went on: ‘We will work hard with our international partners in the coming weeks to unfreeze further libyan assets frozen in the united kingdom for the benefit of the libyan people including stocks of Libyan currency and other assets of the Libyan central bank in line with un security council resolutions.
‘We are also discussing with our partners what funds we can make available for the benefit of the Libyan people to alleviate the hardships that they face.
‘I am conscious that the Libyan students in the United Kingdom whose expenses have been paid by the Libyan people’s bureau, will be concerned about what this decision means for them.
‘I want to reassure them that we are working closely with the National Transitional Council and the relevant banks and will do all we can to ensure that they and their families will continue to receive the funds to which they are entitled.’
Libyan students and their families will be far from reassured.
Hague went on: ‘At earlier stages while we have expelled some of the Libyan diplomats and downgraded the Libyan people’s bureau we were not ready to actually close it, but now we are.’