OTTAWA — Ottawa took steps to expel five Libyan diplomats from the country Tuesday, saying the individuals had engaged in inappropriate activity.
“The activities carried out in Canada by the five Libyan diplomats are considered inappropriate and inconsistent with normal diplomatic functions,” the department of foreign affairs said in a statement.
The Libyan embassy in Ottawa remains open but the five diplomats and their families were told to arrange for immediate departure.
The government added that Canada had not severed diplomatic relations with Libya, although it has suspended operations of its embassy in Tripoli.
Canada is part of the NATO mission enforcing a UN-sanctioned no-fly zone over Libya that aims to protect the North African country’s citizens from attacks by forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Gadhafi’s regime has been trying to stifle protests demanding his ouster since February. Rebels have taken control of most of the eastern part of the country and other scattered areas, helped by NATO’s air campaign.
Tuesday’s diplomatic expulsions came just days after a raucous demonstration near the Libyan embassy forced police to intervene.
Pro and anti-Gadhafi demonstrators faced off against each other, shouting slogans and insults across a street.
One anti-Gadhafi protester said those showing support for the disputed Libyan strongman were all being paid to be at the protest — an allegation that was denied by the pro-regime group.
Those demonstrators carried photos of people allegedly injured by NATO bombing raids. One man said he didn’t believe reports Gadhafi had bombed his own citizens and added that the violence was entirely instigated by rebel forces.