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Zimbabwe boots Libyan ambassador who now backs rebels

By the CNN Wire Staff
Embassy staff and Libyan nationals demonstrate outside the Libyan embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, on August 24, 2011.
Embassy staff and Libyan nationals demonstrate outside the Libyan embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, on August 24, 2011.
  • Libya's ambassador to Zimbabwe is told to leave the country
  • The ambassador said last week he now represents Libya's rebels
  • Zimbabwe's President Mugabe is a supporter of Gadhafi

(CNN) -- President Robert Mugabe's government on Tuesday said the Libyan ambassador to Zimbabwe must leave the country because he has switched his allegiance to the Libyan rebels' National Transitional Council.

"The government of Zimbabwe does not recognize the NTC as the government and representative of the people of Libya," Samuel Mumbengegwi, Zimbabwe's minister of foreign affairs, told journalists in Harare as he announced the expulsion of Ambassador Taher El Magrahi.

"Once you renounce the authority that gave you the letter of credence and then proceed to pledge allegiance to another authority ... it means that act deprives you of your diplomatic standing," Mumbengegwi said.

He added that El Magrahi had been asked to leave Harare within three days.

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Asked about speculation that longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is in Zimbabwe after fleeing as the rebels took over Tripoli, Mumbengegwi said, "I refuse to answer hypothetical questions."

On Wednesday of last week, El Magrahi lowered the flag of the Gadhafi regime outside the embassy in Harare and hoisted the rebel flag, which he said was the nation's flag before Gadhafi took over. Mugabe's government quickly demanded the flag be taken down and threatened El Magrahi with expulsion.

"We are here representing the Libyan people, not representing Gadhafi," El Magrahi responded. "From today (the) 24th of August, what the Libyan majority says we will follow that, through the National Transitional Council."

Members of the Libyan community in Zimbabwe gathered at the embassy last Wednesday to celebrate Gadhafi's apparent fall.

Gadhafi and Zimbabwean strongman Mugabe have long shared three traits: an interest in pan-African solidarity, a disdain for colonial influence and the ignominy of being largely shunned by the international community.

Mugabe was one of three world leaders who in 2009 attended the celebration of Gadhafi's 40 years in power, along with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and King Abdullah of Jordan.

Libya has also given millions of dollars to Zimbabwe, an analyst with the think tank Chatham House has said.

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