Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Libya's Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem flees the country

Libya's Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem has fled the country and flew to Tunisia before making way to the island of Djerba. Libyan rebel leaders have confirmed that Ghanem has defected and was making his way to an undisclosed European location.

A spokesman for the Libyan regime, Moussa Ibrahim, said Ghanem was in Tunisia on official business but noted that the government was unable to reach him. Ibrahim added: “If he did [defect], this is his business…It's not a big deal for us."

A Tunisian official told AFP that Ghanem did indeed stay in the neighbouring country, but added that the former oil minister had "not tried to contact the Tunisian authorities".

A spokesman for Tunisia's rebel Transitional National Council, Jumaa El Gamaty, said: "Mr Shukri Ghanem has defected. I think as we speak he's in [a] transitory European country."

The news of Ghanem's “defection” comes just days after, the International Criminal Court's (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has said he was seeking the arrest of Libyan Leader Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi, his son Saif Al-Islam and the country's Intelligence Chief Abdullah Al-Sanussi.

Moreno-Ocampo said all three individuals were largely responsible for the "widespread and systematic attacks" on civilians. It will be up to the ICC judges to issue warrants for their arrests.

Sources: BBC News, AFP, San Francisco Chronicle, Reuters

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

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