Monday, January 16, 2006

Sao Tome Foreign Minister Denies Wrongdoing And Resigns; Was Likely Ally Of ERHC In PSC Talks

Dealing a blow to allies of ERHC Energy, Foreign Minister Ovidio Pequeno of Sao Tome and Principe has resigned, according to Chinese news reports.

Pequeno was scheduled to attend a meeting of the Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe Joint Ministerial Council this week, and his absence will undoubtedly complicate the issue of getting PSCs signed for ERHC's operatorship of Block 4 with its JV partner, Addax Energy of Switzerland.

Here is the latest from China View:

Sao Tome's FM resigns over corruption 2006-01-17 08:20:18

LUANDA, Jan. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- Foreign Minister of Sao Tome and Principe Ovdeo Pequeno, resigned Monday amid charges that he pocketed aid funds, denying any wrongdoing and saying that a corruption flap in the archipelago was "political manipulation" aimed to damage President Fradique de Menezes.

According to reports reaching here, announcing that he had offered his resignation to Prime Minister Maria do Carmo Silva, the Sao Tomean diplomat said his decision was "irreversible."

He added that he had never diverted "a single cent of state funds," accusing the archipelago's prime minister of creating a "climate of disruption" by ordering an investigation into corruption allegations.

The action to launch an official probe into the charges that he illegally spent 407,000 euros (about 493,200 dollars) on items such as cars was purely "political manipulation" aimed at harming the image of President de Menezes ahead of a leadership contest later this year, Pequeno said.

The latest political crisis broke a fortnight ago in the archipelago after a media report that the country's top diplomat had illegally spent a donation from Morocco, bypassing government controls.

The resigned minister had defended himself against the allegations of embezzlement of purported foreign aid funds, saying the donation from the King of Morocco had been a "one-off" payment, rather than an aid contribution in the context of bilateral cooperation.

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