Defected Libyan oil minister avoids affiliation with rebels

19 May 2011

Shukri Ghanem remains in Tunisia

Shukri Ghanem, the defected Libyan oil minister, has not made contact with the rebel leadership and remains in Tunisia.

“We have not had and do not have any contact with him,” Jalal al-Gallal said on behalf of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC).

The former minister, who was also the head of the National Oil Company, is staying in a hotel on the southern island of Djerba after crossing the border by car on Saturday, according to a Tunisian government official.

He is the latest minister to abandon the Muammer Qaddafi regime. In March, then-foreign minister Moussa Koussa defected, and was questioned by intelligence officers in London before leaving for Qatar. The US had in April frozen the assets of five key regime figures, to undermine their support for Qaddafi.

Two former ministers joined the NTC at the outbreak of hostilities. Former justice minister Moustafa Abdul Jalil now heads the NTC, while ex-interior minister, Abdul Fatah Younes is serving as their military chief of staff.

Ghanem was instrumental in bringing about a rapprochement with the West after years of hostile relations brought about largely by Qaddafi’s support for anti-Western terrorist groups. The payment of more than $2bn in compensation for the bombing of a PanAm flight over Lockerbie in 1988, and Libya’s agreement to abandon secret programmes to develop nuclear and chemical weapons let to a thawing of relations.

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