FROM exile in London, Muhammad al-Senussi, the heir apparent in Libya’s overthrown monarchy, hails the “heroes” of the uprising and urges the international community to oust Muammar Gaddafi.
In more than two decades in the British capital, the successor of the deposed King Idriss has found his proclamations falling on deaf ears.
But with an uprising tearing through Libya and Gaddafi’s authority shaken to its core, he hopes his voice will be heard.
“My message to the international community is to put pressure on Gaddafi and ask him to stop killing his own people immediately. And ask him to leave, himself and his children and all the regime. This guy has to leave,” he said yesterday.
For al-Senussi, a 48-year-old with the neat appearance of a besuited businessman who styles himself the “exiled prince”, Gaddafi is his bete noire.
Then an army captain, Gaddafi led the coup which overthrew al-Senussi’s pro-Western great uncle in 1969 and then confined the crown prince, his wife and their eight children, including then seven-year-old Muhammad, to house arrest.
And it was Gaddafi who eventually forced the royal family to leave the country in 1988.
Today, al-Senussi accuses him of “massacring” his own people.
“I have contacts inside Libya in the east and west and everywhere. And they keep telling me about the situation there.
“It’s a human disaster, it’s terrible. People are killed every day, the hospitals are full of bodies, wounded and dead bodies.
“They are short of medicines. The situation is a human disaster.”
When pressed on what he can do to prevent the repression, al-Senussi said: “I ask the international community to put pressure on Gaddafi to stop killing his own people and I issue a statement asking the international community to put pressure on Gaddafi to stop the killing and leave the country.”
On the question of whether foreign military intervention is required to remove the Libyan leader, he said the international community should do “anything to stop the killing of my people, and to put pressure on Gaddafi. It’s for them to decide.”
Al-Senussi takes particular pride in the re-appearance of the flag of the former monarchy on the streets of Libya.
Banned by Gaddafi for 40 years, the black, red and green flag with a crescent and star has been enthusiastically waved by anti-regime demonstrators.
“This use of the flag is very touching for me,” he said. “This flag is the freedom flag, the independence flag.
“This flag is becoming the symbol of the young people. That makes me very very, very happy. Because this flag is for freedom.”
But he is cautious to interpret the newfound passion for the old flag as a sign that the people want the monarchy to be re-established, and he insists that a return to power is not his aim.
“I see myself as a servant to the Libyan people. They will decide what they want. My goal is to serve my people as much as I can,” he said.
In a statement issued “to the brave Libyan people” by Bell Pottinger, a communications agency whose services do not come cheap, al-Senussi sent his condolences “for the heroes who have laid down their lives” in the uprising.
The “exiled prince” is guarded about his life in London, telling past interviewers that he lives in a modest apartment and receives financial support from fellow exiled Libyans.