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EXCLUSIVE: Libya rebels spurn Ghanem

Libya's rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) will not welcome Shokri Ghanem into the rebel east, despite his defection from Muammar Qadhafi’s regime, a source inside the TNC told Petroleum Economist today

Ghanem is believed to have fled Tripoli, Libya, for Tunisia, where he is now said to be under protection. As chairman of National Oil Company (NOC) and Libya’s representative at Opec meetings, Ghanem, 68, was a central figure in the regime.

Analysts agreed on Tuesday that his defection dealt a fresh blow to Qadhafi’s efforts to quell a rebellion against his government. News of the defection followed an announcement from the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it had issued arrest warrants for Qadhafi, his son, Saif al-Islam, and Abdullah Senussi, the head of the country’s intelligence service.

“Ghanem’s defection is big,” said one analyst who has close contact with Libyan authorities. “Everyone’s agreeing this is the beginning of the end.”

It is unclear what role western intelligence had in Ghanem’s defection, although it is understood that his son has tried to persuade him to defect for some time. In recent weeks, sources said Ghanem feared reprisals against his family in the event that he abandoned the regime.

But the TNC source was adamant that he would not be welcome. “Western governments asked us who were the people in the regime we could work with after Qadhafi was gone,” he told Petroleum Economist. “He was the only one we said ‘no’ [to].”

Ghanem is thought to have been close to Saif al-Islam. He was also considered one of the architects of more stringent investment terms that the government imposed on foreign companies operating in Libya in recent years.

The ICC has charged Qadhafi and the two other senior regime figures with crimes against humanity. Some critics say the ICC’s move makes chances for a negotiated settlement to the conflict far less likely because Qadhafi will fear arrest and a show trial in the event that he is arrested during a ceasefire.

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