WASHINGTON, May 19, 2011 (AFP) – The wife and daughter of embattled Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi have fled the country into neighboring Tunisia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday.
Speaking in an interview with CBS, Clinton said the international pressure on the Libyan regime was “seeing slow, but steady progress” as Libyan rebels seek to oust Kadhafi after more than four decades in power.
“The pressure on the Kadhafi regime has increased to the point that Kadhafi’s wife and daughter fled across the border into Tunisia in the last two days,” she told CBS’s Katie Couric.
“The oil minister has defected,” the top US diplomat added.
Rumors that members of embattled Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s family, including his wife and daughter, had fled to Tunisia have been circulating for a couple of days.
Clinton said: “There is an enormous amount of increased messaging going to Kadhafi, not just because of the military strikes, but from those who he thought were in his camp or at least wouldn’t try to push him to leave.”
But the rumors were denied Thursday by Tunisian authorities.
“These reports are totally false,” said a government source in Tunis, stressing “no member of the Kadhafi family has crossed the Tunisian border” with Libya.
Press reports had in particular said Kadhafi’s wife and daughter, Sofia and Aicha, had arrived in Tunisia.
Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem, a veteran of Kadhafi’s regime, at the weekend crossed from Libya into neighboring Tunisia, a Tunisian official said, although there had been no confirmation.
Ghanem, also chairman of Libya’s national oil company, had been due to attend a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries but has made no comment since he left Libya and his whereabouts are unclear.
If confirmed, Ghanem would be among the most senior officials to abandon Kadhafi’s government since the revolt erupted.