Libyan oil minister announces defection in Rome

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, June 2 -- Libya’s Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem said he’s defected from the regime of embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi due to the violence now sweeping the North African country.

Ghanem told reporters at a news conference in Rome he left his job due to the “unbearable” violence in Libya and the “daily spilling of blood” he witnessed there.

The former oil minister said he supported "Libyan youth fighting for a constitutional state" but that he had not yet decided whether to join with forces opposed to the rule of Gadhafi.

Ghanem meanwhile confirmed that he will not represent Libya at next week’s meeting in Vienna of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, adding to further pressures on the group.

Libya’s rebels last month said they wanted to attend the OPEC meeting, but that the organization had not invited them.

“We want to attend, and will study the legal procedure,” said Mahmud Shammam, media spokesman for the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC). “We still do not know if OPEC will invite us,” he said (OGJ Online, May 20, 2011).

Among OPEC members, only Qatar has recognized the NTC as the authorized representative of the Libyan people, and it is not clear what procedures would have to be followed by OPEC itself to recognize the rebels.

Earlier, Libya’s deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim insisted that Ghanem would attend the June 8 meeting on behalf of Libya, saying the oil minister had been in touch following his departure from the country last month.

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister Mouldi Kefi added to the turmoil by saying that Ghanem had fled Libya and switched his loyalties away from Gadhafi.

“I believe and I suspect…Ghanem just left Libya and that he is not any more working with the Gadhafi regime,” said Kefi, when asked the whereabouts of Libya’s missing oil minister (OGJ Online, May 24, 2011).

Contact Eric Watkins at

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