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Zimbabwe expels Libyan ambassador after switch of allegiance to rebels

Libya's fallen leader Muammar Qaddafi still has friends in the Zimbabwe government of President Robert Mugabe, who shares ideological and financial ties with Libya's former leader.

By a CorrespondentCorrespondent / August 30, 2011

Libyan Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Taher El-Magrahi , wearing white shirt front right, during a demonstration against the rule of Muammar Qaddafi outside the Libyan Embassy in Harare, in this Aug. 24 photo.

Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

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Harare, Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe government has expelled Libyan ambassador to Zimbabwe, Taher El-Magrahi and his staff for siding with the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC).

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The expulsion follows Zimbabwe's move to force the Libyan embassy in Harare to pull down the rebel's new flag, which it flew briefly after switching allegiance to the NTC leadership in Benghazi.

The government of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi effectively fell last week when anti-Qaddafi forces took effective control of the nation's capital, Tripoli. Yet, for the Zimbabwe government – which has maintained close ties to Mr. Qaddafi because of the Libyan leader's financial and military support of rebel movements such as Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU PF party – Qaddafi's government is the only one that Zimbabwe will recognize.

"The Libyan ambassador and his staff decided to renounce their allegiance to the government of Colonel Qaddafi," Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said on Tuesday. "This act deprives the Libyan ambassador and his staff of any diplomatic status in Zimbabwe because Zimbabwe does not recognize the NTC." He added, "So it is in this context that the Libyan ambassador and his staff are required to leave Zimbabwe within the next 72 hours.”

Qaddafi and President Robert Mugabe share a lot in common, especially their anti-Western stance and their preference for iron-fisted rule. El-Magrahi last week led his compatriots in burning portraits of Qaddafi and lowering the green flag synonymous with his regime. The embassy replaced the flag with that of the anti-Qaddafi rebellion. Mugabe and Qaddafi are said to have “deep” economic ties, but this has not yet been substantiated.

Qaddafi’s son, Saadi, was in Zimbabwe last August to seek business opportunities where he was feted like a king. He was escorted around the country at the time under heavy security and was taken to the majestic Victoria Falls for sight seeing by government officials. According to reports, he visited the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam in Masvingo province, where he promised to make a sizeable investment in the dam’s construction. (Rebels claimed to have captured Saadi Qaddafi on Aug. 22 in Tripoli.)

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