Libyan students took over their country's embassies in Washington and at least two other Western capitals yesterday at the urging of strongman Muammar Qaddafi who called on students Saturday to oust embassy diplomats and establish "people's bureaus" to celebrate his 10th anniversary in power.
The leader of a five-man committee occupying the Libyan Embassy in Washington, Ali Houderi, said the takeovers represent an attempt to deal with Libyans directly instead of through recular channels and other formal methods.
"We consider it an internal matter to match what's happening in Libya," he said. "Normal business will be carried on. We are not expecting any disruption of daily activities."
It appeared to be business as usual at the Libyan Embassy in Washington, 1118 22nd St., NW, yesterday. Pictures of Qaddafi were taped to the windows and doors of the embassy. A green flag hung from a second-floor window. A white hand-written sign read, "The People's Office of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya."
In London, a spokesman for a group of Libyan students occuping the Libyan Embassy there said the peaceful takeover was carried out in accordance with principles outlined by Qaddafi.
The London spokesman said the students had also formed a "people's committee" that would decide future policy concerning the occupation.
In Athens, the Libyan Embassy was taken over earlier by five Libyans who set up what they called a popular committee. The group charged that the ambassador and his staff had not been working for the Libyan people.
There were no reports that Libyan embassies in Paris, Madrid, Bonn or other capitals were also overrun as Qaddafi suggested in a speech delivered Saturday to commemorate the military coup he staged in 1969 to seize power.
The head of the takeover committee in Washington said the major embassies "are considered key embassies and eventually it's going to affect all the other embassies."
In his speech marking the anniversary of Libya's socialist revolution, Qaddafi said: "All the embassies continue to represent government bodies at a time when the government has disappeared in the (Libyan) Jamahiriya with the establishment of people's power."
The official Libyan news agency said today Qaddafi called for the takeovers because of numerous complaints by his countrymen about "what actually takes place in those embassies."
The complaints, Qaddafi was quoted as saying, "revealed the gap existing between the masses and their embassies, the fact that elements of the deposed regime [of King Idris] continue to be employed in the embassies and the existence of neoptism and extravagance.
The only solution, he said, was to turn the embassies into "people's bureaus."