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Ex-Libya oil chief found dead in river

VIENNA — Shukri Ghanem, a former Libyan prime minister and oil minister who last year announced he was abandoning Moammar Gadhafi's regime to support the rebels who ultimately toppled the dictator, was found dead Sunday in a section of the Danube river flowing through Vienna, Austrian police said.

Police spokesman Roman Hahslinger said the 69-year-old's corpse was found floating in the river early in the morning. The body showed no external signs of violence, but the cause of death was not clear and an autopsy will be carried out, Hahslinger said.

"There would be no signs of violence if someone pushed him in," Hahslinger said. "But it's also possible that he became ill and fell into the water."

An Austrian Foreign Ministry official said family members initially told the ministry that Ghanem had died of a heart attack, adding that their version appeared to be plausible. He demanded anonymity because his ministry was not in charge of the investigation.

Hahslinger said Ghanem apparently left his residence early Sunday morning after spending Saturday evening at home with an acquaintance.

Ghanem is a former Libyan premier who last served as his country's oil minister, until 2011. He left Libya for Tunisia and then Europe in June as insurgents were pushing to topple Gadhafi, and he later announced he would support the rebels.

With advanced degrees in law and economics, Ghanem served in senior positions within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries before his appointment as Libyan prime minister in June 2003 — an office he held until 2006 when he took the oil ministry portfolio.

Ex-Libya oil chief found dead in river 04/29/12 [Last modified: Sunday, April 29, 2012 11:40pm]
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