Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi may be on his way to Venezuela, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague suggested tonight.
Leaving talks in Brussels after agreeing an EU statement demanding restraint and an end to violence by the Libyan regime, Hague told British reporters he had no firm knowledge but went on: "I have seen some information that suggests he is on his way there at the moment." British officials here indicated the Foreign Secretary was not referring to any media speculation but other sources.
Earlier Hague said he had phoned Colonel Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam yesterday to object to the use of the force and then added: "The son is clearly very much in Libya, but I have no evidence as to the whereabouts of Gaddafi himself".
During a day of talks on an EU response to the Libyan crisis, all EU foreign ministers were being kept updated, but only Hague seemed confident enough to volunteer a likely bolthole for the Libyan leader, the media here suggested.
The Foreign Secretary also spoke of an historic opportunity for the European Union in tackling not just the Libyan situation, but the unfolding chain of popular rebellion across North Africa and the Middle-East.
"This is a major, historic test for the EU. "Clearly if we can succeed in bringing more democracy and more stability to Northern Africa and the wider Middle East, that will be the greatest achievement for the EU since its enlargement" (to 27 countries, embracing the former eastern Europe). "If we don't succeed, the dangers for the EU of instability and extremism on our frontiers are immense."