Britain has expelled all staff of the Libyan embassy in London. The six people will be given a few days to leave the country. Envoys from the rebel government in Benghazi are expected to take over the building.
Acting Charge d’Affairs Khaled Benshaban was informed about the expulsion on Wednesday, the Foreign Office said.
According to Sky News, the emptied building will be handed over the envoys of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC), which the UK regards as legal representatives of the Libyan people.
Nations regarding the NTC as Libya’s legal government include the US, France, Italy, Germany and Spain among others.
Earlier this year, a total of eight Libyan embassy staff had been expelled from Britain, including Ambassador Omar Jelban. The latter was sent out of the country in response to the attack on the British embassy in Tripoli.
The move to expel the pro-Gaddafi diplomats from London is rather more symbolic than practical, says Mark Almond, a professor of modern history at Oxford University.
“Traditionally Britain has recognized government not on the basis of whether we liked them or not, but on whether they controlled the territory of the state. Colonel Gaddafi may have lost control of part of Libya, but clearly the rebels don’t control it yet. So this sets a new precedent, and a dangerous one,” he told RT.
He added that the campaign, which was promised to end in a matter of weeks, but has lasted for months with little success for the rebels and their NATO supporters, showed how weak the European military may turn out to be when facing a resilient enemy.
“In practice this symbolic decision to recognize the rebels and kick out Gaddafi’s diplomats from London masks a deep embarrassment and a strategic crisis for the NATO countries, led by Britain and France,” he said.
The expulsion comes after Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was reported on Wednesday as appearing at a pro-government rally. Al Megrahi was given a life sentence in the UK for organizing the bombing of a Pan Am passenger plane in 1988, which killed 270 people.
He was later diagnosed with prostate cancer and handed over back to Libya to die. In 2009, when this happened, Al Megrahi was believed to have only three months to live.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the footage shows that the medical advice on the convicted terrorist’s condition was “pretty worthless”.
He added that Britain will unfreeze Libyan oil assets to help transitional government.