May 17, 2011 / 9:23 AM / 9 years ago

Libya's top oil official left post- rebel minister

The logo of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is pictured on the wall of the new OPEC headquarters in Vienna March 16, 2010. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

DOHA (Reuters)- Shokri Ghanem, chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), has defected from the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan rebels’ finance and oil minister said on Tuesday.

“As far as we know he has left his post, this is as far as we know in the past 24 hours,” Ali Tarhouni told Reuters during a visit to the Qatari capital. He said he did know know where Ghanem was.

Ghanem also heads Libya’s delegation to meetings of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC meets next in June.

Tarhouni was asked who might be representating Libya at that meeting in Vienna. “I hope it will be me,” he said.

Late on Monday Al Arabiya television quoted sources in the rebel Transitional National Council as saying that Ghanem had

joined rebel ranks. Al Jazeera television reported he had left Libya, without giving details.

Ghanem could not be reached for comment.

Born in Tripoli, Ghanem, 68, was educated in the United States and has been NOC chairman since 2006. He is married with four children, according to the web site of NOC.

Since the start of the unrest, Libya is estimated to have lost two thirds of its oil output because of the civil war in Africa’s third-largest producer.

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