Libya leaders supported by "money, arms, PR": ex-premier

TRIPOLI Thu Nov 24, 2011 5:08pm EST

Tripoli's revolutionary fighters take part in a military parade in Tripoli November 17, 2011.  REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Tripoli's revolutionary fighters take part in a military parade in Tripoli November 17, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem

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TRIPOLI (Reuters) - One of the most senior figures in Libya's outgoing government has denounced its leaders as an unelected elite, supported by "money, arms and PR," and warned that 90 percent of Libya is politically voiceless.

Outgoing acting Prime Minister Ali Tarhouni's comments were the strongest criticism to date by a senior politician of the country's new rulers, who led the rebellion that ended Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule and have been in charge since his fall.

The National Transitional Council (NTC) also had a say in Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib's provisional government line-up, which was announced on Tuesday and mandated to steer the country toward democracy.

"The voices that we see now are the voices of the elite, the voices of the NTC who are not elected and the voices of other people who are supported by the outside by money, arms and PR," Tarhouni said on Thursday, hours after a new cabinet was formed.

"It's about time we heard the true voices of the masses ... we need to start rebuilding this democratic constitutional movement," he told a news conference.

Tarhouni was in charge of the oil and finance portfolios in Libya's outgoing transitional government and briefly served as acting prime minister until Thursday, when a new cabinet was sworn in.

Having been a frontrunner for a post as finance minister in Keib's cabinet until the eleventh hour, Tarhouni said he had been asked to join but declined due to the challenges of the transitional period and because he wanted to speak freely.

"I see danger for the sovereignty of Libya. I see a threat for the wealth of the Libyan people," Tarhouni told reporters, without elaborating.

"I see the economic issues as a major challenge," he added.

"FAILED MISERABLY"

Tarhouni said that NTC had "failed miserably" in melding the myriad armed militias that still roam the country into an official national army.

Listing the many security and economic challenges that lie ahead for a nascent government as the country emerges from a bloody civil war, he said the safety of oil installations was a critical issue.

"My hope that the new government will take this issue seriously," he said.

However, Tarhouni repeatedly wished the new line up "success" and said "they should be given a chance."

On Tuesday, the NTC named a cabinet favoring appointees who will soothe rivalries between regional factions, but specific groups, including the Amazigh, or Berber, have boycotted the new government complaining of the lack of representation.

(Editing by Sophie Hares)

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