By Deepa Babington
ROME (Reuters) – Libyaâ€™s top oil official Shokri Ghanem appeared in Rome on Wednesday, saying he had defected because of relentless bloodshed under Muammar Gaddafiâ€™s rule.
A tired looking Ghanem, whose whereabouts had been unknown for several days, made a brief statement to a few reporters in the basement of a Rome hotel that he had resigned as National Oil Corp chief because of the â€œunbearableâ€ violence in Libya.
â€œThe continuous blood spill, continuous war and loss of life make it impossible for anyone to work in this environment,â€ said Ghanem, one of the most senior officials to desert Gaddafi.
â€œI left the country and decided also to leave my job and to join the choice of Libyan youth to create a modern constitutional state respecting human rights and building a better future for all Libyans.â€
Ghanem, a familiar face to oil reporters with whom he enjoyed friendly banters at energy conferences, appeared tense and a shadow of his former effusive self, politely answering questions briefly before leaving.
â€œWe will see what will happen, itâ€™s too early to say,â€ he said, when asked what he would do next and if he would join the rebel movement. â€œI need some sort of few days rest.â€
He said he had left Tripoli two weeks ago, and that some of his family remained there.
â€œLot of Pressureâ€
Born in Tripoli, Ghanem has decades of experience in the oil sector and took the helm of Libyaâ€™s National Oil Corp. in 2006. Considered a reformer, reports emerged in 2009 that he had resigned in a turf war, but he was back at his post weeks later.
In Rome, he said had not seen Gaddafi â€œfor months,â€ but still hoped for a peaceful solution to the leaderâ€™s fate. Gaddafi has shown no signs of stepping down since rebels in the east rose up against his four-decade rule in mid-February.
Asked if he thought Gaddafi would be willing to negotiate, Ghanem said: â€œWell he is negotiating sometimes. A few days ago he met with the South African president but of course we donâ€™t know what is going to happen.â€
When asked what the mood within the Gaddafi government was, he said: â€œWhatâ€™s happening in Libya is that there is a lot of pressure from within and from outside.â€
Ghanem, who normally led the Libyan delegation at OPEC, said oil production in Libya was â€œcoming to a haltâ€ because of the international sanctions.
â€œVery little is produced because you cannot export — if you cannot export, you cannot produce,â€ he said.
He added he would no longer represent Libya at OPEC.
(Editing by Jon Hemming)