Marco Werman: Europe is also keeping a nervous eye on Libya. Many European nations are involved in the NATO air campaign in Libya. That campaign continues as long as Muammar Gaddafi is on the run. Today, the head of NATO said he has no information regarding Gaddafi's whereabouts. In Libya, a spokesman for the new transitional government claimed today that Gaddafi is surrounded, but another official admitted the new leaders have no idea where he is. Today, in neighboring Niger, the country's justice minister said categorically that Gaddafi was not there. The official also denied earlier reports that Gaddafi supporters had crossed into Niger in a convoy this week. Idy Barou is a BBC correspondent based in Niamey, the capital of Niger. He says there are plenty of reasons why Gaddafi loyalists would seek refuge there.
Idy Barou: It's well known that Niger and Libya are sharing a long border, and Niger has a big community of internationals established in Libya for ages. And Libya is also helping Niger, assisting Niger in many ways like funding Niger's development project in agriculture, and also in construction; and then even in the construction of some mosques. And Libya also has some interests in Niger's oil. And the regime of Gaddafi recently helped Niger solve its rebellion in the northern part of the country in the states of Agadez and Tahoua.
Werman: Hasn't Niger already recognized Libya's rebel government, the National Transitional Council, though?
Barou: Indeed Niger's government has recognized the NTC in Libya, but in spite of that, only yesterday the state minister of internal office held a press conference in Niamey, at which he said they have provided humanitarian asylum to the security chief of Colonel Gaddafi, General Abdullah Mansour Daw who arrived in Niamey on Monday this week. So this is to show that in spite of the recognition of the NTC, Niger's authorities could decide otherwise if the situation requires that.
Werman: What is the reaction in Niger, among the Nigerua[? 2:15] to having Gaddafi loyalists on their soil right now?
Barou: Well, the common people and even observers think that it's a good thing that Niger provides shelter to Colonel Gaddafi even if it is Colonel Gaddafi himself who arrives Niger, and I'm talking about his allies, or his family or his security. Just ordinary people think that the national attacks on Libya is just an economic war and at it's aimed at plundering the oil of Libya, so Niger should not contribute in hunting for Colonel Gaddafi or hunting for his supporters.
Werman: The idea that it's a war over oil sounds like it's a line that's come straight out of Colonel Gaddafi's mouth. Are people in Niger pretty much accepting that it's Gaddafi's story line about what's happening in Libya?
Barou: Well, actually Gaddafi is seen here as especially somebody who has defied the western powers and somebody who has helped boost the economic growth of his own country and the unity of Africa through his projects. They see Gaddafi as somebody who is doing much better for developing Africa than somebody who should deserve any punishment.
Werman: The BBC's Idy Barou in Niger's capital, Niamey. Thank you very much, Idy.
Barou: Thank you.