Donald Macintyre: Gaddafi's Alastair Campbell

Moussa Ibrahim's problem is not his presentation but his loyalty

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The Independent Online

Comical Ali he isn't. Saddam Hussein's Information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, was a preposterous master of bombast, who could say, two days before the fall of Baghdad, that American troops were committing suicide in their hundreds at the city gates. His Libyan counterpart, Moussa Ibrahim, is rather different. Like his silkier Syrian counterpart, Reem Haddad, the rougher-edged Ibrahim remains a professional, in many ways on the Western PR model. His off-camera efforts to discredit Eman al Obeidi, the woman who accused Libyan security forces of rape, was hardly pretty. But would a US or European government spokesman, transplanted into the surreal circumstances of this embattled dictatorship, have behaved any differently?

It's easy to see why he inflames exiled dissidents with his endless presentation of the regime's case on Western TV, or that his constant claims that areas are stable or under Gaddafi's control when they palpably aren't, seem increasingly detached from reality. But what choice does he have if he is to remain in post? A PR man can only work with what he has. With his excellent English and long experience of the UK as a PhD student, he could presumably have defected to an acceptable job in the West long ago. Moussa Ibrahim's problem is not his presentation but his loyalty.

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