PRESS ASSOCIATION -- Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's diplomats in London tried to sell off embassy assets including cars before they were expelled by the British Government, sources have claimed.
A senior UK official said a number of other Libyan embassies are understood to be carrying out "fire sales" to raise money for the "cash-strapped" regime in Tripoli.
The official also claimed that Gaddafi was "increasingly desperate" to secure fuel for his armed forces and the situation could reach a "tipping point" soon.
Britain announced last month that it was recognising the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) as Libya's only legitimate government and would expel the remaining Tripoli regime diplomats.
A source said Gaddafi's UK envoys tried to sell cars and "anything that wasn't nailed down" in the embassy in Knightsbridge, west London, before it was reopened by the NTC on Tuesday. It is not known how much they managed to raise, or whether they kept the money or sent it back to Tripoli.
The senior British official said: "The pressure is starting to tell. We understand that across the region Libyan embassies are engaged in fire sales of assets in order to raise money for the cash-strapped Tripoli regime. Separately NTC forces have succeeded in cutting off some of the oil supplies that Gaddafi has been diverting to the frontline.
"We know that this is making Gaddafi increasingly desperate for fuel to run his armed forces. This may reach a tipping point soon."
The official admitted that progress in the Nato-led military campaign against Gaddafi, which started in March, had not been "as swift as we would have liked". She added that the July 28 killing of rebel military commander General Abdel Fattah Younes, allegedly by his own side, was "shocking" and represented a "significant challenge".
It is understood that the NTC has completed an internal investigation into why General Younes was recalled from the frontline to the rebel capital Benghazi just before his murder, and will announce its findings shortly. The British official said moves by the NTC this week to dismiss its executive committee "represented an opportunity".
"It is a welcome and decisive acknowledgement by the council's leadership that, while they have made progress in many areas and are administering Libya with maturity, failings have led to the killing of Younes," she said.Suggest a correction