Top Gaddafi official gets Niger govt role

2012-03-08 17:34
Niamey - Niger has given Muammar Gaddafi's former chief of staff a diplomatic passport and an advisory role in government, sources said on Thursday, a move likely to worsen Niger's fraying relationship with Libya's new leaders.

Bashir Saleh Bashir was one of Gaddafi's top aides who also ran Libya's investment fund for the ousted leader. He was given the passport in late December after being named a Niger presidential adviser, two top police officials told Reuters.

"A diplomatic passport was issued to Bashir Saleh Bashir, who was named adviser to the presidency," one of the police officials said, asking not to be named.

Niger's bi-weekly L'Evenement said the passport stated Saleh was born in Niger's northern town of Agadez in 1946. A Niger government spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Tensions have risen between Niger and its northern neighbour Libya since rebels toppled Gaddafi's regime in August. Niger has received about 230 000 refugees from Libya, some of whom fought alongside Gaddafi's forces, and has also granted asylum to Gaddafi's son Saadi.

Neither Saadi nor Bashir are being sought by the International Criminal Court. Niger's government warned its people last month they could be targeted by roving militia if they travel to Libya.

Migrant workers from Niger, one of the world's poorest countries and which faces near-annual food shortages, have for years sought employment in oil-producing Libya.

Libya's new government has pressed Niger to extradite Saadi, saying his call on February 10 for Libyans to prepare for a "coming uprising" threatened ties.

Niger pledged to tighten its surveillance of Saadi but said he could not be handed to a state where he might be executed.

Saleh was regarded as one of the ex-Libyan leader's most powerful advisers. For several years he was chairperson of the Libyan African Investment Portfolio, an arm of the country's sovereign wealth fund.

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