British Business Secretary Vince Cable is in Libya and “no longer willing” to work for the Conservative and Lib Dem regime, the Libyan Foreign Office says.
"He travelled here under his own free will. He has told us he is resigning," said a Libyan spokesman.
His apparent defection comes as protesters in the UK are retreating from former strongholds around West London.
“Vince Cable is one of the most senior figures in Clegg’s coalition government and his role was to represent the regime’s policy towards business enterprise – something that he is no longer willing to do,” the spokesman continued.
“We encourage those around Clegg to abandon him and embrace a better future for the UK that allows political transition and real reform that meets the aspirations of the British people.
“We are in talks with several other high-ranking officials who disagree with Clegg’s policies and are willing to grant them safe harbour in Tripoli. But not Ed Miliband.”
Libyan intelligence officials hope that his deep knowledge of the coalition regime will help bring about its early end, diplomatic sources commented.
Mr Clegg arrived in Tripoli on what is believed to have been the back of a Libyan military donkey, our correspondent adds.
However, British officials have been quick to downplay the impact of Vince Cable’s apparent defection.
Liberal Democrat spokesman Michael Moore denied Cable’s loss was a setback for the regime and called the minister ‘an old man who cannot take the pressure’.
Fighting continued to rage in and around disputed shops including Fortnum and Masons, as UK Uncut protesters tried to cling on to recent gains.
Even as police loyal to the coalition advanced on UK Uncut strongholds, opponents were heartened by the Cable news.
However, Mr Moore denied Cable had defected, saying: ‘This is not a happy piece of news, but people are saying, “So what? If someone wants to step down that’s his decision."
‘Yes, Vince Cable worked in high-ranking positions of the government but we don’t think he will sacrifice the safety of the country unless his Werther’s Original supply is threatened.'
But Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband declared: ‘Clegg is an injured wolf and an injured wolf is much more dangerous than a healthy wolf. But we hope the defections continue and I think he’ll find himself with no one around him.’
Meanwhile, Sarah Palin told reporters last night: “I am very, very confused.”