5 Apr 2011

Gaddafi must stay in power, says government

10:26 pm on 5 April 2011

The Libyan government says it is open to political reform but Muammar Gaddafi must stay in power to avoid a power vacuum.

A spokesperson for Colonel Gaddafi says the leader is a unifying figure and insists his forces are only targeting armed rebels, not civilians.

Western forces began carrying out air raids on Libya on 19 March to enforce a United Nations no-fly zone and to protect civilians from attacks by government troops.

NATO assumed responsibility for the military operation last week.

Meanwhile, Colonel Gadaffi's son says he and his father do not feel betrayed by the defection of the Libyan foreign minister who arrived in London last week.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi told the BBC that Moussa Koussa has travelled to Britain for health reasons and was being pressured into making allegations about Libya's government in an effort to secure immunity from prosecution.

Mr Gaddafi said Mr Koussa was allowed to leave Libya, and denied that he knew incriminating details about the 1988 bombing of a plane over the Scottish town of Lockerbie that killed 270 people, or other atrocities.