Oil minister does not return to Libya:Tunisia source

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 20, 2011 9:08 AM
Oil minister does not return to Libya:Tunisia source

TUNIS (Reuters) - Libya's oil chief, Omran Abukraa, is in Tunisia after deciding not to return to Libya from a trip abroad, a Tunisian official source said Saturday, the third apparent defection this week of a senior figure associated with Muammar Gaddafi's rule.

"Libyan Oil Minister Omran Abukraa did not return to Libya after his mission in Italy, preferring to cut his trip short and go to Tunisia," the Tunisian official source told Reuters.

The report, if confirmed, suggests more senior figures are deserting Gaddafi's government since rebels seized the city of Zawiyah, cutting off Tripoli from the outside world.

A senior security official, Nasser al-Mabruk Abdullah, flew to Cairo from Tunisia Monday with his family. Rebels said Abdel Salam Jalloud, Gaddafi's former deputy who is now out of favor with the leader, defected to their side Friday.

Although Libya does not formally give its officials the title of minister, Abukraa represented Tripoli at an OPEC oil ministers' meeting in June.

He replaced Tripoli's long-serving oil chief Shokri Ghanem, who defected from Gaddafi's government and said he supported the aims of rebels trying to topple him.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Peter Graff)