Libya`s oil chief Ghanem defects to Rome

Ghanem said he left Libya because of the "unbearable" violence.

Rome: Libya`s top oil official Shokri Ghanem appeared in Rome on Wednesday, saying he had defected in protest against bloodshed in Libya and to help build a democracy his country, in a blow to Muammar Gaddafi`s rule.

A tired looking Ghanem, whose whereabouts had been unknown for several days, made a brief statement in Rome that he had left his position as National Oil Corp head because of the "unbearable" violence in Libya.

Ghanem, one of the most senior Libyan officials to have defected, said he had left Tripoli two weeks ago and had not seen Gaddafi "for months." He said he still hoped for a peaceful resolution to the conflict and Gaddafi.

"I left the country and decided also to leave my job and to join the choice of Libyan youth to create a modern constitutional state respecting human rights and building a better future for all Libyans," he said.

When asked what the mood within the Gaddafi government was, he said: "What`s happening in Libya is that there is a lot of pressure from within and from outside."
Ghanem, who had normally led the Libyan delegation at OPEC, said oil production in Libya was "coming to a halt" because of the international embargo.

He added that in future he would not be representing Libya at OPEC in the future, and said he did not know who would from Gaddafi`s side.

"It (oil production) is almost coming a halt, very little is produced because you cannot export -- if you cannot export, you cannot produce," he said.

Asked if he thought Gaddafi would be willing to negotiate, Ghanem said: "Well he is negotiating sometimes. A few days ago he met with the South African president but of course we don`t know what is going to happen."

Bureau Report