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Equatorial Guinea Accuses International Media of Trying to 'Destabilize' Nation - 2004-07-21

Officials in Equatorial Guinea say the international media are trying to destabilize the small west African nation in the wake of a U.S. Senate probe into controversial accounts held by president Teodoro Obiang Nguema at Rigg's Bank.

The government of Equatorial Guinea has accused media in the former colonial power, Spain, of attempting to confuse citizens and destabilize the nation by broadcasting information related to a U.S. investigation into money laundering by President Obiang.

Spanish television broadcast a report about the impoverished African nation on Friday referring to a Senate report that alleged that accounts maintained by President Obiang had been used to filter oil revenues for private use.

A campaigner with London-based rights group Global Witness, Sarah Wykes says the Senate report supplies clear evidence of corruption.

"It seems that none of the country's oil wealth, which is about several-billion dollars since the mid [19]90s, none of that wealth seems to actually have gone to the country's development," she said. "And, now we have very clear evidence of why that is, that most of the money has been kept off-shore, out of sight and there seems to be a total confusion as to what in fact is state revenues and what is personal wealth to be used by the president and his family."

Ms. Wykes says it has been clear for years that the recently oil-rich nation has not been developing, despite the wealth from oil revenues.

"Equatorial's human development indicators have actually gone backwards since oil came on stream in the mid [19]90s. So it is actually deteriorated, despite having billions of dollars in oil wealth," she said. "So where has that money gone? It definitely has not gone to the development of the country."

The government of Equatorial Guinea has rejected the corruption accusations. The new minister of information announced on national television that the Senate investigation has nothing to do with the government of Equatorial Guinea.

A government-issued statement warns all international media from publishing any information that could destabilize, what it says, is a democratic political regime. President Obiang has been head of state since seizing power from the former president and his uncle in a military coup in 1979.