Zimbabwe's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday that the Harare government no longer recognizes Libyan ambassador Taher Elmagrahi following his defection to rebels led by the National Transitional Council seeking to replace the government of Moammar Gadhafi. Elmagrahi could face expulsion from Zimbabwe, officials said.
Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Joey Bimha, told VOA on Thursday that Harare no longer has anything to do with Elmagrahi because the envoy no longer represents the interests of the Gadhafi administration that appointed him.
Bimha said his ministry has recommended to the Immigration Department that it review the ambassador’s legal status following his defection to the rebel forces.
Chief Immigration Officer Clemence Masango could not be reached for comment.
On Wednesday a group of Libyans demonstrated at the Libyan Embassy in Harare in support of the rebels now in control of much of Tripoli. Demonstrators pulled down the official Libyan flag and burned it before raising the transitional council's flag.
Political analysts said the defection of the Libyan ambassador to the rebels should have no bearing on bilateral relations as it is an internal Libyan matter, and whether Harare decides to recognize the rebel faction or not cannot prevent the ambassador in Harare from recognizing a change in government and respecting popular sentiment.
Political analyst Julius Mtyambizai-Dewa said the ambassador represents the interest of Libyans, so a move by Harare to eject him would be a diplomatic blunder.
Though Zimbabwe has not recognized the National Transitional Council, African countries including Botswana, Egypt and Nigeria have done so.
African Union leaders were to meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss the latest events in Libya and attempt to make a collective response to Gadhafi's seeming overthrow.
Pro-Gadhafi forces were reported to be organizing a counter-offensive in Gadhafi's home town of Sirte, 400 kilometers east of Tripoli.