Libya appoints new defence minister

Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) has appointed the local commander whose forces captured Muammar Gaddafi’s son at the weekend as new defence minister, an NTC source said on Tuesday.

Osama Al-Juwali, head of the military council in Zintan, was given the defence job as part of a Cabinet line-up in which secularist liberals were dominant and which had no key roles for the Islamists who have been making a bid for power since Gaddafi’s fall.

Three months after an armed revolt ended Gaddafi’s 42-year rule over the oil producing country, Libya’s new rulers are dealing with the tricky task of balancing rival regional factions and ideological camps all jockeying for influence in the new Libya.

The new government line-up — which will run the country until elections are held — was agreed at a meeting late on Tuesday of the NTC, a source in the council who has seen the list of appointments said.

However, in an indication of the tensions around the Cabinet composition, the source later said some NTC members, after agreeing the appointments, had re-opened the discussions.

Crucial role
“There are some people who do not accept some of the names,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. It was not clear which posts were the subject of debate.

In other appointments, Libya’s deputy envoy to the UN was named as foreign minister, an oil company executive was made oil minister and the finance minister in the outgoing government was re-appointed, the source said.

Juwali is a former officer in the Libyan military whose forces from Zintan played a crucial role in the offensive on Tripoli which ended Gaddafi’s rule in August. He has not previously been seen as a contender for the defence job.

But he appeared to have staked a claim to the post after forces under his command on Saturday captured Saif al-Islam, the son of the former Libyan leader who is wanted for prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The defence minister’s role had been coveted by Islamists, who after being persecuted for years under Gaddafi assumed powerful roles in the chaos which followed his fall.

Cabinet line-up
The source said the NTC had agreed to appoint Ibrahim Dabbashi, the deputy UN envoy, as foreign minister. He came to prominence soon after Libya’s revolt erupted in February, when he broke with Gaddafi and sided with the rebellion.

Ali Tarhouni, an academic in the US who returned from exile to run the oil and finance portfolio in the anti-Gaddafi rebellion, was made finance minister, the source said, while Hassan Ziglam, an executive in a Libyan oil company, was given the oil minister’s portfolio.

The NTC is expected to officially announce the Cabinet line-up later on Tuesday.

Speaking on Monday, prime minister designate Abdurrahim El-Keib said he would pick the best people to steer the country towards democracy rather than those with the most political clout.

“We will use competence as a basic measure and this way we will be able to include all of Libya’s regions. You will see,” he told a news conference with the visiting US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice.

Overshadowed by tensions
“We’re working hard to ensure that what we have is something solid, cohesive, capable of doing the job,” he said.

Libya’s attempts to build new institutions have been overshadowed by tensions between military and regional factions who want to translate their role in ousting Gaddafi into a share of political power.

Those tensions were illustrated by the capture of Saif al-Islam deep in the Libyan desert.

The fighters from Zintan who seized him on Saturday flew him in a Soviet-built cargo plane to their hometown in Libya’s Western mountains and are holding him there until the central government is formed.

They say it is to ensure his safety; his father was killed after he was caught by another militia in his hometown of Sirte last month. — Reuters

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Marie Louise Gumuchian
Marie Louise Gumuchian works from London. Journalist based in London. Previously reporting from Libya, West/East Africa, Italy and Ireland Marie Louise Gumuchian has over 1705 followers on Twitter.

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