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Libyan authorities allow Canadian implicated in spy probe to leave Add to ...

A Canadian citizen who was briefly implicated in a supposed spy scandal was allowed to leave Libya late on Tuesday.

"We have been informed that there are no further restrictions preventing [Douglas]O'Reilly from leaving the country," Catherine Loubier, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, said in an emailed statement.

It wasn't immediately clear when Mr. O'Reilly would leave Tripoli.

Earlier, Canadian diplomats had said only that an unnamed citizen was being "prevented" from leaving Libya, and being made to stay in his Tripoli hotel room while local authorities pursued an espionage investigation.

According to an article published in the Libyan newspaper Oea, a Canadian named "Douglas Oriali" - the name was apparently mistranslated - had been placed under surveillance by Libyan authorities who didn't believe his claims he was a simple touring archaeologist concerned about a new British Petroleum offshore rig.

According to the article, Libyan security agencies had suspected the man - also said to have Irish and Australian citizenship - was working with U.S. intelligence "to gather information aiming to ensure the failure of the drilling project."

Anonymous officials told the newspaper that they had spotted him meeting a U.S. diplomat suspected of being a Central Intelligence Agency spy.

This was hardly the first time the regime of Mummar Gaddafi has alleged espionage and subversion.

Over much of the past decade, for example, a group of Bulgarian nurses were accused of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with AIDS at the behest of a foreign spy agency (the nurses were eventually released). And a diplomatic row between South Korea and Libya has been raging in recent months after Tripoli alleged Korea had been spying and sought hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.

Drilling is to begin soon on the new BP project in the Gulf of Sirte off Libya's north coast. The project is the result of the a $900-million exploration agreement that the British oil company had signed with Libya in 2007.

At 1,700 metres below sea level, the project is deeper than the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon project that disastrously ruptured this past summer, and the resulting spill led to fears about another BP disaster.

The Mediterranean Sea has served as a birthplace of all manner of early sea-faring civilizations, and archaeologists take a keen interest in recovering sunken treasures from its coasts.

Jim Delgado, a Canadian archeologist based in Texas, said everyone wants to avoid a repeat of the Gulf of Mexico spill. But his institute has been discussing the oil project with Libya, which he says is taking pains to ensure drilling doesn't adversely affect any future finds.

"They know their rich history," he said. "They know their coastal environment."

With a report from Campbell Clark

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