|Carlos Gomes Junior, Guinea Bissau's prime minister, has maintained strong support with Gaddafi's Libya [EPA]
Guinea Bissau's prime minister has said Libya's fugitive leader, Muammar Gaddafi, would be welcomed "with open arms" in the small west African country, a local radio station reported.
"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," Carlos Gomes Junior, the prime minister, 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 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 has also provided uniforms to the Bissau Guinea army and renovated several of its military barracks.
In early August, before Libyan fighters trying to take down Gaddafi's regime launched their Tripoli offensive, 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 slammed NATO's 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 Friday, a correspondent from the AFP news agency 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.
Guinea 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.
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 beneficiaries 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.