Tripoli said on Thursday it would send a representative to the next OPEC meeting, replacing the senior oil official who defected, saying he had lost faith in the rule of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
Former National Oil Corp chairman Shokri Ghanem, who oversaw Libya’s oil and gas sector, is the second-most senior official to quit and rebels said the defection showed that the end was nearing for Qaddafi almost four months into a rebellion against him.
However, an official in Tripoli played down the significance of Ghanem’s departure.
“This is a country, a state, a government, not just one person,” government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said.
He said the government would be represented at the meeting of the OPEC in Vienna on Wednesday.
“I don’t have a name yet but we’ll have somebody,” he said.
Ghanem appeared on Wednesday at a news conference in Rome after leaving Libya more than a week ago.
“I have been working in Libya for so many years believing that we can make a lot of reform from within. Unfortunately this became not possible, especially now, when we see the spilling of blood every day in Libya,” Ghanem said.
A series of at least 10 NATO strikes hit in and around the Libyan capital early yesterday, targeting military barracks close to Qaddafi’s sprawling compound in central Tripoli, a police station and a military base, a government official said. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.
The strikes appeared to be the heaviest in Tripoli since South African President Jacob Zuma visited Qaddafi in the capital earlier this week in an apparently unsuccessful effort to find a peaceful resolution to the country’s crisis.
Four of the early morning blasts yesterday shook central Tripoli, targeting an area where military barracks are located, said a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy. Those barracks, which had been hit in the past, are close to Qaddafi’s sprawling compound.
Six earlier strikes targeted a police station and a military base outside the capital in the areas of Hera and Aziziya, the official said.
A UN official said the world body’s refugee agency would meet later in the day with a Libyan woman who claimed she was gang-raped by Qaddafi’s troops.
Imad al-Obeidi was deported on Thursday from Qatar, where she had sought refuge and was flown against her will to Benghazi, the official, Adrian Edwards, said in Geneva. Benghazi is the Libyan rebels’ de facto capital.
Edwards said his agency was with el-Obeidi when she was taken from her Qatar hotel against her will. He said she is a recognized refugee and her deportation violated international law.
US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said Washington was “monitoring the situation” and working to ensure al-Obeidi’s safety.
In March, el-Obeidi rushed into Tripoli’s Rixos Hotel where all foreign correspondents are forced to stay while covering the part of Libya under Qaddafi’s control, and shouted out her story of being stopped at a checkpoint, dragged away and gang-raped by soldiers. As she spoke emotionally and as photographers and reporters recorded her words, government minders, whose job is to escort reporters around the area, jumped her and dragged her away.
She disappeared for several days, then turned up in Tunisia and later Qatar. Little was heard from her until on Thursday, when she was suddenly expelled from Qatar and ended up in Benghazi.