New Libyan leader vows human rights commitment

Libya’s new prime minister on Tuesday pledged his interim government would set respect for human rights as its priority, as the United Nations (UN) warned against the proliferation of arms looted from Muammar Gaddafi’s huge stockpile.

Abdel Rahim al-Keib, an academic and wealthy businessman who is a native of Tripoli, was elected interim prime minister in a public vote carried out by the members of the National Transitional Council (NTC) on Monday night.

Keib told a news conference shortly after beating four other candidates in the vote that he would set human rights as a priority.

“We guarantee that we are going to build a nation that respects human rights and does not accept the abuse of human rights. But we need time,” he said.

Keib spent decades abroad as an opponent of Gaddafi before joining the pro-democracy revolution that overthrew him.

He replaces Mahmud Jibril, who resigned three days after Gaddafi was captured and killed when NTC fighters overran his hometown Sirte on October 20.

“This vote proves that Libyans are able to build their future,” NTC chairperson Mustafa Abdel Jalil said after Monday’s vote.

Fresh elections
Under a political roadmap, Keib now has until November 23 to form an interim government that, parallel to the NTC, will run Libya for eight months after which elections for a constituent assembly will be held.

At that point the interim government and NTC will disband, giving way to a “general national congress” that the constituent assembly will form to run the country until parliamentary and presidential elections are held.

Keib spoke only days after a demonstration by men in the highly conservative eastern city of Benghazi demanded that Islamic sharia law must be the basis of legislation in newly-liberated Libya.

On October 23, Abdel Jalil said sharia would be Libya’s principal law.

“Any law that violates sharia is null and void legally,” he said, citing as an example the law on marriage passed during the slain dictator’s tenure that imposed restrictions on polygamy, which is permitted in Islam.

Abdel Jalil’s comments have provoked criticism and calls for restraint from abroad amid fears the Arab Spring may give rise to a potentially intolerant Islamist resurgence.

Ahmed al-Moghrabi, a prayer leader at a Benghazi mosque, said at Friday’s demonstration that Libya was “not concerned [with] what Western countries” feel about sharia.

“Our revolution was carried out by our boys not the West. We don’t look at the West. We do what we want to do,” he said.

The appointment of a new prime minister came as the UN Security Council on Monday called on Libya’s interim authorities and neighbouring countries to stamp out the spread of weapons from Gaddafi’s stockpiles.

Amid mounting fears militant groups in Africa and beyond could get shoulder-fired rockets and other weapons from the Gaddafi cache, the council unanimously passed a resolution demanding the clampdown.

Resolution 2017, drawn up by Russia, stressed fears the stockpile could cause unrest through Africa’s Sahel region and fall into the hands of groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

It called on Libya “to take all necessary steps to prevent the proliferation of all arms,” especially man-portable surface-to-air missiles, MANPADS.

Since the death of Gaddafi on October 20, Libya’s transitional government has found two chemical weapons sites hidden by the old regime, experts said.

The UN envoy to Libya, Ian Martin, told the Security Council last week that international inspectors have to visit hundreds of suspected weapons stockpile sites in Libya.

Gaddafi’s regime “accumulated the largest known stockpile of anti-aircraft missiles” outside of producing countries, Martin said.

End to no-fly zone
The MANPAD surface-to-air missiles can be used against civilian jets and other ordinance can easily be converted into car bombs and roadside explosives, according to experts.

It was also revealed that Libyan and Nato secret agents kept watch over hidden stocks of mustard gas, stockpiled by Gaddafi, throughout the war which toppled him to prevent his forces using them.

Monday’s election of a new prime minister followed a visit to Tripoli by Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen to mark the official end of the alliance air war that helped topple Gaddafi.

The no-fly zone and naval blockade, enforced by Nato since March 31, ended a minute before midnight Monday Libyan time (21:59 GMT), as stipulated by a UN Security Council resolution last week that ended the alliance’s mandate.

In other developments, the National Oil Corp said Libyan oil production has reached 530 000 barrels per day, exceeding expectations for the rate of recovery of the country’s vital industry.

“We are now producing 530 000 barrels per day. The main problem [in reaching this level] was that the Sharara pipeline was blocked. But they have been very quick to fix this,” a senior official at the state-run NOC told Agence France-Presse.

Interim oil minister Ali Tarhuni said last month that Tripoli hoped to raise oil production to nearly one million bpd by April and to pre-conflict levels of around 1.7 million bpd by the end of 2012. — AFP

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