Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi has fled Libya for exile in Venezuela, credible Western intelligence reports say.

The British foreign secretary, William Hague made the report following an emergency EU meeting of foreign ministers on the situation in Libya.

When Hague was asked if Britain, or other Western countries, knew if Col. Gaddafi had left Tripoli, he said: “About whether Col. Gaddafi, is in Venezuela, I have no information that says he is although I have seen some information that suggests he is on his way there.”

Gadaffi losing his grip on Libya

British officials stressed that Hague was referring “not to media reports but information from other channels”.

“This is credible information,” said a diplomat.

However, a senior source in the Venezuelan government denied the reports that Col. Gaddafi was travelling to the South American oil-producing nation led by his ally President Hugo Chavez.

An official said the information that the Libyan leader was heading into exile was “unfounded rumours”.

Hague said that the foreign office was offering “every possible assistance” to the 3,500 British nationals currently in Libya.

“There should be restraint instead of violence, dialogue instead of repression in Libya. Human rights should be respected. We are concerned at this stage about our nationals in Libya,” he said.

Governments and companies have scrambled to get people out of Libya after security forces loyal to Col. Gaddafi warned he would “fight to the last bullet”.

As foreign ministers met in Brussels, they heard intelligence reports that the Libyan regime was close to collapse as the city of Benghazi fell to anti-government protesters.