Oil chief defects and flees to safety of Tunisia

THE chairman of Libya's National Oil Corporation has defected from the Gaddafi government and fled to Tunisia, according to a security source there.

Libyan rebels also said they had information that Shokri Ghanem, 68, had defected, a move that if confirmed would deal a blow to Colonel Gaddafi.

"He is in a hotel with a group of other Libyan officials," the Tunisian source said. Another Tunisian security source said he was on his way to the capital, Tunis.

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The oil chief, left, a former prime minister, is credited with liberalising Libya's economy and energy sector.

Rebel finance minister Ali Tarhouni said he understood Mr Ghanem had left his post. Libya has lost up to two thirds of its oil output since the unrest began three months ago.