WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 (UPI) — Defections from the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi suggest he should take the hint and step down, the U.S. State Department said.
Various media reports have suggested Libyan Interior Minister Nasser al-Mabruk Abdullah arrived in Cairo, though it was unclear if he’d defected.
Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, in a statement to reporters, said she wasn’t in a position to confirm the minister’s intentions but felt it was a sign Gadhafi’s inner circle was seeing the writing on the wall.
“We’ve seen a steady march of senior Gadhafi officials abandoning him and we think this is further to the importance of him taking the hint and stepping down,” she said.
Gadhafi in an audio message broadcast on Libyan television made similar claims regarding NATO forces enforcing a no-fly zone over the country, CNN reported Monday.
Rebel forces in Libya have moved within 38 miles of Tripoli. Gadhafi has held out against NATO and rebel assaults at least since March, when the U.N. Security Council authorized international military force in Libya.
The rebel-backed Transitional National Council, despite some fracturing in recent weeks, has gained widespread recognition as the sole governmental authority in Libya despite the slow progress of the military campaign.