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Sunday, June 5, 2011     GET REAL

Libya top oil official defects, sides with
'our best youth and our best men'

CAIRO — Libya's oil chief has fled the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi.


Libyan National Oil Corp. director Shokri Ghanem has left Libya and arrived in Europe. Ghanem, a former prime minister, said he defected because of what he termed "unbearable" violence by the Gadhafi regime.

"I have been working in Libya for so many years believing that we can make a lot of reform from within," Ghanem told a news conference in Rome on June 1. "Unfortunately this became not possible, especially now, when we see the spilling of blood every day in Libya."

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[On late June 4, six explosions ripped through the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Minutes later, Libyan television reported a NATO air strike as the Western alliance began using helicopters against the Gadhafi regime, Middle East Newsline reported.]

The former oil chief said production in Libya was rapidly declining amid the international embargo on the Gadhafi regime. Ghanem said he envisioned the ouster of Gadhafi, who has ruled Libya since 1969.

Ghanem was believed to have been one of the most senior officials to have defected. For years, he was responsible for setting Libyan energy policy and negotiating exploration and development contracts with Western majors.

"I left the country and decided also to leave my job and to join choice Libyan youth to create a modern constitutional state respecting human rights and building a better future for all Libyans," Ghanem said. "Our best youth and our best men getting killed."

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