Guinea Bissau Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior said on Saturday Libya's ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi would be welcomed "with open arms" if he seeks exile in the west African country.
"The Libyan guide Muammar Gaddafi deserves all the respect of our government who will host him with open arms. He will be welcome in our country, if he needs exile in our country," Gomes Junior told the independent Radio Bombolom.
The prime minister made the statement on his return from the inauguration of Cape Verde's new President Jorge Carlos Fonseca. He made the same comments to the media there on Friday, adding "we will ensure his security."
Asked about the international arrest warrant against Gaddafi, Gomes said: "Guinea Bissau has not ratified the Rome Statute (that established the International Criminal Court), so doesn't take that into account."
The west African nation, known for its chronic political and military instability, had strong ties with Gaddafi's regime, which invested widely in hotels, agriculture and cashew nuts -- the country's main export.
Gaddafi visited the country in 2009, and provided support to the presidential campaign of President Malam Bacai Sanha. He also provided uniforms to the Bissau Guinea army and renovated several of its military barracks.
In early August, before rebel fighters launched an offensive in Tripoli, Gomes Junior told a conference: "Gaddafi and Libya are friends of Guinea Bissau. If the Libyan leader wants to come to Guinea Bissau we will receive him with open arms."
He condemned NATO airstrikes in Libya as a "flagrant violation of the rights of a sovereign country. Behind this, is the fact that westerners want Libyan oil."
The flag of the new Libyan authority, the National Transition Council (NTC) -- which was raised over the Libyan embassy in Bissau a week ago -- was removed on Thursday, an AFP correspondent reported.
Local media reports suggest the foreign ministry had ordered the flag be removed and the green flag of Gaddafi's regime re-hoisted, however no officials could be reached to confirm this.
Bissau joins a small pool of countries where it is believed Gaddafi could seek shelter, along with Niger, Burkina Faso and Venezuela, where he has been rumoured to be seeking exile since his regime was toppled last month.
Rumours abound over the whereabouts of the man who ruled oil-rich Libya for over four decades.
Gaddafi on Thursday told Damascus-based Arrai Oruba television by telephone he had not fled to Niger, where a dozen of his aides are being held under house arrest.
Niger's neighbour Burkina Faso, meanwhile, denied claims it was hosting Gaddafi or any of his generals, and many among the NTC believe the fallen strongman is still on the run in Libya.
The African Union has not recognised the NTC as the legitimate government, and many of its members -- who were allied to Gaddafi's regime and recipients of his largesse -- have criticised the NATO campaign in the country.
The continental body, whose efforts to mediate the crisis were largely ignored, wants an all-inclusive transitional government put in place.