TOKYO/TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian Foreign Minister Mouldi Kefi said on Monday he believed Libyan oil chief Shokri Ghanem was no longer working for Muammar Gaddafi’s government.
The whereabouts of Ghanem have been a mystery since Libyan rebels said last Tuesday he had defected. The government in Tripoli has denied the rebels’ accusation and said last Thursday he was on an official trip to Tunisia, Europe and Egypt.
“I believe and I suspect Mr. Ghanem just left Libya and that he is not any more working with the Gaddafi regime. Probably that’s why he came to Tunisia,” Kefi, in Tokyo to meet Japanese government officials, told a news conference.
Kefi added that Ghanem was staying in a hotel on a small southern island of Tunisia but when asked whether Ghanem plans to travel to other countries, Kefi said: “Only God knows what is in Mr. Ghanem’s mind.”
As head of Libya’s NOC state energy firm and its delegate to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Ghanem is the country’s most important energy official. He is widely respected by people in the industry.
Separately, Tunisia’s official news agency TAP reported that a number of Libyans, including Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi and Libya’s ambassador to Liberia, had crossed the border into Tunisia at Ras Jadir.
It was not immediately clear why they were traveling.
Reporting by Yoko Nishikawa and Tarek Amara; Writing by Jan Harvey; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Alison Williams