- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 3, 2011

UNITED NATIONS | Libyan Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi objects to being called a rebel diplomat.

For the No. 2 man at the Libyan mission to the United Nations, Moammar Gadhafi is the rebel, and he and the 14 diplomats he works with are the true loyalists, laboring for the good of the Libyan people.

“We want a civilized state, a democratic state,” Mr. Dabbashi said in an interview with the Associated Press last week.

He expects the NATO-backed opposition forces fighting against Col. Gadhafi in Libya will prevail in a few weeks or months, “but it will not last until the end of the year.”

Mr. Dabbashi, deputy representative at the mission until Col. Gadhafi withdrew his support for him and other defecting diplomats in late March, figures they can hold out for at least two or three more months at their offices a block from U.N. headquarters in New York.

“Even if we don’t have money, I think we can continue,” he said, noting that Libya owns the 24-story building housing the mission. The operation uses just six floors, and a renovation of the other levels is under way in hopes of later renting out some space.

Many Libyan missions around the world, including the embassy in Washington, are now staffed by several former Gadhafi loyalists-turned-defectors.

Mr. Dabbashi said the previous ambassador to the U.S. no longer works out of the embassy with the half-dozen diplomats who still show up, but remains in the U.S. capital.

So far, the opposition government in Benghazi has been formally recognized by several countries, including France, Italy, Kuwait, Qatar and Gambia, Mr. Dabbashi said. He hopes Jordan, the U.S. and Britain will sign on soon.

“Their decision to defect was not taken lightly and was very brave, given the family members that they have back in Libya,” British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said of Mr. Dabbashi and the mission’s No. 1, Ambassador Abdurraham Mohamed Shalgham.

Although persona non grata with the Gadhafi regime, the 60-year-old Mr. Dabbashi and other mission employees have plenty to do.

Every workday morning, Mr. Dabbashi walks from his Manhattan apartment to his offices in his charcoal pinstripes and shiny black loafers, arriving about 8 a.m. for an average 12-hour day.

The huge, romanticized painting of Col. Gadhafi on horseback that once greeted visitors in the lobby has been removed.

The simple, monochromatic green flag representing the Gadhafi government has been replaced in mission offices with the banner of the opposition: three horizontal stripes, one red, one black and one green with a white star and crescent stamped in the middle. It’s the flag that was used when Libya was still a constitutional monarchy more than four decades ago before Col. Gadhafi seized power.

Mr. Dabbashi or another diplomat talk every day with the Libyan opposition’s Transitional National Government in Benghazi about diplomatic efforts, and about what is happening on the ground.

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