Africa

Factbox: Who is Moussa Koussa?

Moussa Koussa was one of Gaddafi's key officials, his spy chief and the architect of a dramatic shift in Libya's foreign policy that brought the country back to the international community after years of sanctions.  

Moussa Koussa was one of Gaddafi's key officials, his spy chief and the architect of a dramatic shift in Libya's foreign policy that brought the country back to the international community after years of sanctions.

In his native Tripoli, the name Moussa Koussa is deadly serious, synonymous with fierce loyalty and implacable militancy for decades.

"A strong man of the revolutionary committees, backbone of the Libyan regime and trusted aide of Muammar Gaddafi" is how he is described in a profile written by the AFP news agency out of the Libyan capital.

Guma El-Gamaty, an organiser in the UK for Libyan dissidents, told the Associated Press: "He has been Gaddafi's right-hand man for years, running intelligence, running the Lockerbie bomber negotiations, running many things."

According to Britain's Observer newspaper, a confidential profile prepared by British intelligence in December 1995 described him as the head of the "principal intelligence institution in Libya, which has been responsible for supporting terrorist organisations and for perpetrating state sponsored acts of terrorism".

Early life

Moussa Koussa was born in 1949, and attended Michigan State University in the US, earning a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1978.

He speaks fluent English, though prefers not to speak English at public gatherings, instead using a translator.

Political career

Koussa was a security specialist for Libyan embassies across Europe before being appointed as Colonel Gaddafi's de facto ambassador to London in 1979.

He was expelled from the UK in 1980 after having advocated the killing of Libyan dissidents in Britain and having expressed admiration for IRA militants.

In 1984, Koussa was appointed to the Mathaba, Libya's anti-imperialist centre.

He served as Libya's deputy minister of Foreign Affairs from 1992 to 1994, and was appointed head of the Libyan intelligence agency in 1994.

Moussa Koussa was designated as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2009, replacing Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, who was appointed Libyan ambassador to the United Nations in New York, and reportedly resigned on March 30th 2011.

He was head of Libya's External Security Organisation, which made him the country's de facto spy chief.

Provided Washington with information on al-Qaeda

Koussa, with Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, played a central role in negotiating the lifting of international sanctions on Libya in 2004.

As a confidence-building measure, he provided information to Washington on the activities of al-Qaeda in Libya and north Africa.

'Embodies intellectual acumen, operational ability and political weight': US

A US embassy cable published by the WikiLeaks website described Koussa as "the rare Libyan official who embodies a combination of intellectual acumen, operational ability and political weight". Another leaked cable said he was "a useful and powerful interlocutor who has been mostly cooperative in liaison channels and key to our re-engagement."

According to US embassy cables, Koussa offered the British government assurances that Abdelbasset al-Megrahi, the man convicted over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, would be given a low-key welcome if freed and allowed to return home.

In the event, he was given a hero's welcome when he touched down in Tripoli last year, embarassing the British government.

Announced 'immediate halt to military operations against rebels'

On March 18, Koussa appeared at a press conference in Tripoli to announce an immediate halt to military operations against Libyan rebels. However, there was no indication that forces loyal to Gaddafi had observed the ceasefire.

Koussa acted as informal mentor to another of Gaddafi's sons, Mutassim, who is national security advisor. He accompanied Mutassim on a visit to New York soon after Libya emerged from international isolation.

A US embassy cable quoted Koussa, in a private conversation, as saying that Mutassim was not a keen student of international relations and had to be prompted to read books on the subject.

Koussa 'not at centre of Libya's ruling circle'

Before the Libya crisis, there were indications that Koussa was no longer at the centre of the country's ruling circle.

There had been unconfirmed reports of a physical altercation between him and one of Gaddafi's sons.

At an international summit in Tripoli in December 2010, Koussa spent much of his time smoking in the public buffet area while the rest of Gaddafi's entourage were cloistered in a private room.

Whatever the future holds for the 59-year-old, he would certainly be an invaluable source of information on Muammar Gaddafi's rule.

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