William Hague, the British foreign secretary, spoke on the phone to General Abdul Fattah Younis al Obidi in Benghazi today. Obidi is a former Libyan interior minister and head of special forces and is currently what the Foreign Office calls “the senior military figure in the opposition group” in charge of Benghazi.
According to the Foreign Office, the two men discussed “the latest situation on the ground in Libya, the impact on Libyans and the provision of international humanitarian assistance to Libya. General Obidi asked the foreign secretary about planning for a no-fly zone. The foreign secretary said that the UK was deeply concerned about the violence and was in the process of contingency planning for all eventualities, including a no-fly zone, in close conjunction with its allies.”
Gen al-Abidi was sent to Benghazi at the end of last week to oversee the suppression of the demonstrations here.
Instead, he rang Col Gaddafi and persuaded him not to use warplanes to crush the protesters.
After this evidence that he was changing sides, there seems to have been an attempt to assassinate him.
Col Gaddafi actually announced the general’s death in a speech on Libyan television, but it was a bodyguard who died instead, in a shooting incident in Benghazi.
All this persuaded the general to come over to the uprising. At present he is living in a secret house on the outskirts of Benghazi.