Heir to Libyan throne under Brussels spotlight

Libyan Prince Senussi.jpg

Libya's exiled Crown Prince Mohammed El Senussi made a high-profile appearance in the European Parliament yesterday (20 April). He presented himself as a constitutionalist and lobbied for his country's 1951 monarchic constitution to provide the building blocks of the future Libya.

The little-known heir to the throne of Libya addressed, in Arabic, a crowded meeting room before taking some questions. The event, organised by the Conservative and Reformists (ECR) group, was attended by MEPs across party lines, curious to see the monarch-in-waiting of the oil-rich country.

Mohammed El Senussi told the story of his family. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi ousted his great uncle King Idris from power in 1969, and El Senussi himself and his family faced the brutality of the regime too.

In 1988, he was banished overseas by the regime and lived in the UK with other members of his family. Before dying in 1992, his father Hasan as-Senussi appointed him as his successor as crown prince and head of the royal house of Libya.

After 1992, he said he had been working with his brothers with the Libyan opposition, organising different events in Europe.

Mohammed El-Senussi said he wanted more Western nations and Arab countries to join France and the UK, the leaders of which he personally thanked for enforcing the no-fly zone, in putting pressure on Gaddafi. He did not enter into details of what this pressure might be.

Asked to explain his attitude vis-a-vis the Benghazi-based Libyan Interim Council, he said he had good relations with them, but stressed that the key word was that this was indeed an interim body. He insisted that the Libyan constitution of 1951, which marked the country's independence from Italy and set up a constitutional and hereditary monarchy, provides the building blocks for the future of the country.

But he left the door open for adaptations to the constitution to be made and for the Libyan people to decide which form of democracy they wanted, whether a constitutional monarchy or a republic.

Asked if he would envisage returning to his native country soon, he made clear that he would not return while Gaddafi was still in power in part of the country.

Asked to specify if he was appealing for ground troops to be sent to Libya, El Senussi explained that for any decision, the will of the Libyan people was of primary importance. He added that this was not the case at present, but that the situation might change over time.

Indeed, the situation in the besieged city of Misrata, a port of 300,000 people and the insurgents' last bastion in the west of the country, deteriorated yesterday. Hundreds of civilians are believed to have been killed.

Among those killed yesterday were British photojournalist Tim Hetherington, co-director of Oscar-nominated war documentary 'Restrepo', and American photographer Chris Hondros, killed when a group they were in came under mortar fire.

A rebel spokesman was quoted by Reuters as saying that NATO has been totally inefficient in Misrata and had completely failed to change things on the ground.

In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has spearheaded UN-backed NATO intervention, pledged stronger military action at his first meeting with the leader of the opposition Libyan National Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil.

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