UK Revokes Gaddafi's Immunity

World | February 27, 2011, Sunday // 17:02|  views

Hague also called on Libyan leader Gaddafi (pictured) to stand down, saying it was the "best hope" for Libya. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Britain has revoked the diplomatic immunity of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his family, Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Sunday, urging the dictator to step down.

"We have here a country descending into civil war, with atrocious scenes of killing of protesters and a government actually making war on its own so of course it is time for Colonel Gaddafi to go. That is the best hope for Libya," Hague told BBC1.

"And last night I signed a directive revoking his diplomatic immunity in the United Kingdom but also the diplomatic immunity of his sons, his family, his household.

"So it is very clear where we stand on his status as the head of state."

Hague confirmed that ex-prime minister Tony Blair had informed the Government of telephone conversations he held with Gaddafi over recent days.

Reports suggested the Foreign Office had asked him to tell the leader to step down but Hague said: "We are not going to get into a negotiation with Colonel Gaddafi."

And he defended the former premier's initiative to offer the "hand of friendship" to the regime in the 1990s - although not the moves which led to the freedom of the Lockerbie bomber.

"It was right to try to establish a relationship with the Gaddafi government that took Libya away from weapons of mass destruction programmes and the state-sponsorship of international terrorism. If we hadn't done that we might have been in a worse position now." he said.

Britain had to "keep a distance from a dictator", he said.

"We do have to do business though with countries we disagree with. And we still have to do it. I called the Libyan foreign minister last night because you still have to communicate with them personally that this situation is unacceptable."

At least 1,000 people are thought to have been killed in the bloody repression so far.

Mr Hague said the international community had to work closely together to ensure the uprisings across the Middle East were turned into a positive change.

"If we get this right over the coming months it will the greatest advance in world affairs since central and eastern Europe changed so dramatically 20 years ago," he said.

"If we get it wrong well then uncontrolled migration, a breeding ground for international terrorism. These will be the problems coming at us in future years."

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