ROME, June 1 (UPI) -- Libyan Oil Minister Shokri Ghanem announced in Rome Wednesday he had quit the Gadhafi regime and praised the pro-democracy rebels.
Ghanem, who had fled to Tunisia May 16, condemned "the daily bloodshed" as Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi clings to power. Ghanem endorsed "the young Libyans who are fighting for a constitutional state," but said he had not decided whether to join the opposition in Benghazi, Agenzia Giornalistica Italia reported.
Appearing alongside the Libyan ambassador to Italy, another defector, he said oil production was coming to a halt, The Daily Telegraph reported.
"Very little is being produced, because of the U.N. embargo and the fact that foreigners have fled for reasons of security," the British newspaper quoted him as saying.
An oil workers union leader said last weekend the only working refinery in government-held territory, at Zawiyah, was running on rapidly falling crude stocks.
"In Libya there is a great deal of pressure, both internal and external," Ghanem said. "We have to wait and see what will happen. There are many possible solutions, including a peaceful solution."
On Monday, eight senior Libyan military officers defected to the rebels. An Italian official told the Italian news agency ANSA Italian intelligence helped arrange the move to leave.