Libyan newspaper says Canadian detained on suspicion of spying on BP drilling project for CIA

CAIRO (AP) — Libya has detained a Canadian man on suspicion of spying on a planned BP offshore drilling project for U.S. intelligence, a Libyan newspaper reported.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Department said Tuesday it is seeking more information about the man's detention but cannot release details.

Libya's daily Oea newspaper reported Monday that the man was detained after meeting a U.S. diplomat suspected of being a CIA agent. The report quoted an unidentified Libyan security official.

The paper said he is being questioned and prevented from leaving his hotel in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

A Libyan government spokesman reached by The Associated Press refused to comment.

The newspaper identified the man as Douglas Oriali and said he claimed to be an archaeologist seeking to warn of the BP project's potential impact on archaeological sites.

"We are aware of a Canadian citizen in Tripoli, Libya, who is being prevented from leaving the country," said Pierre Florea, a spokesman for Canada's Foreign Affairs Department. "The Canadian mission in Tripoli is working closely with local authorities to gather additional information, and is providing consular assistance as required."

American and European oil firms have been competing for Libyan contracts since the country emerged from international isolation nearly a decade ago.

BP PLC expects to begin exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Sirte off the Libyan coast later this year. The London-based company has run into opposition to its plans after the Gulf of Mexico spill.

The environmental disaster led to concerns about whether Mediterranean states are equipped to deal with a spill of such a magnitude.