Libya's defected oil minister seeks interim refuge in Algeria: report

15:05, May 21, 2011      

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Libyan Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem, who has defected his country and crossed the border with Tunisia, is seeking an interim refuge in neighboring Algeria, Algerian An- Nahar newspaper reported on Friday, citing well-informed sources.

The Arabic-language paper said Ghanem, also head of the National Oil Company, will head from Algeria to Qatar, the first Arab state to recognize the Libyan rebels as the official Libyan government and to join NATO-led air strikes.

Media reports have said Ghanem crossed the border by car last Saturday and since he has stayed in a hotel in the Tunisian island of Djerba, near the border with Libya.

But the Libyan government denied he had defected, saying he was on "a mission in Tunisia".

Ghanem has been in charge of the oil ministry since 2006 and was previously prime minister. His oil ministry is the biggest income generator for the country.

If his defection was confirmed, Ghanem would be among the most senior officials to abandon embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi since the start of the revolt aiming to end his 42-year- old rule.

Source: Xinhua

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