Libyan oil minister defects: Tunisian official

Libya`s oil minister, Shukri Ghanem crossed into Tunisia by road & defected.

Last Updated: May 19, 2011, 00:10 AM IST

Tunis: Libya`s oil minister has defected
and fled to Tunisia, a Tunisian security official said on Tuesday,
one of the highest profile figures to abandon Moammar
Gadhafi`s government.

Shukri Ghanem, the head of the national oil company
and Libya`s oil minister, crossed into Tunisia by road on
Monday and defected, the Tunisian official said. The official,
based in the region around the Ras Jdir border crossing, was
not authorised to speak to the media.
Ghanem is one of the most prominent members of
Gadhafi`s government to defect amid fighting between the
military and rebels. A NATO-led campaign of airstrikes is
seeking to protect civilians from attacks by Gadhafi`s
military.

Ghanem is among Gadhafi officials under US sanctions
announced by the Treasury Department in early April.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim denied
Monday night that Ghanem had defected. "He is working in his
office," he said.

Abdel Moneim al-Houni, a former Libyan Arab League
representative who was among the first wave of Libyan
diplomats to defect, confirmed the defection but said no
official announcement has been made out of concern for the
safety of some of his family members who are still in Tripoli.
Al-Houni said that he spoke to Ghanem after he crossed the
border.

"Most of the officials remaining in Tripoli are forced
to stay under intimidation and pressure. They are not happy
with what is happening," Al-Houni told the AP.

Guma El-Gamaty, London-based spokesman for Libya`s
Interim National Council, said "all what we know is that
Shukri Ghanem is in Tunisia."

Bureau Report