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Ex-Libya PM found dead in Danube


Shukri Ghanem was found dead in Vienna's Danube river (AP/Gregorio Borgia)

Shukri Ghanem was found dead in Vienna's Danube river (AP/Gregorio Borgia)

Shukri Ghanem was found dead in Vienna's Danube river (AP/Gregorio Borgia)

Shukri Ghanem, a former Libyan premier and oil minister who abandoned Muammar Gaddafi's regime to support the rebels who ultimately toppled the dictator, has been found dead in a section of the Danube river flowing through Vienna, Austria.

Police spokesman Roman Hahslinger said the his body was found floating in the river early on Sunday morning. It showed no external signs of violence, but the cause of death was not immediately clear and an autopsy will be carried out.

"There would be no signs of violence if someone pushed him in," Mr 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 Mr Ghanem, 69, had died of a heart attack, adding that their version appeared to be plausible.

Mr Ghanem was dressed normally when found in the river but had no personal identification other than a document that named the company he was working for, Mr Hahslinger said. An employee of the company was subsequently contacted and identified him.

Mr Hahslinger said Mr Ghanem apparently left his Vienna home early on Sunday morning after spending Saturday evening at home with an acquaintance. Police were alerted by a passer-by who saw his body floating near his home, close to the modernistic building housing United Nations agencies in the Austrian capital.

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

He was said to be autocratic at home but reporters covering the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries remembered him as a friendly man who readily gave his mobile phone number to selected journalists covering OPEC ministerial meetings and gracefully took even late-evening calls.

With advanced degrees in law and economics, Mr Ghanem served in senior positions within the Vienna-based OPEC before his appointment as Libyan prime minister in June 2003 - an office he held until 2006 when he took the oil ministry portfolio.

Considered a member of Gaddafi's inner circle until his defection, he insisted that Libya bore no responsibility for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people. He also repudiated Libyan responsibility in the 1984 shooting death of WPC Yvonne Fletcher during a protest in front of his country's embassy - an incident that led to the severing of British-Libyan relations.