TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya’s new prime minister on Tuesday presented a coalition cabinet drawn from liberal and Islamist parties to the national congress, which had rejected his predecessor’s line-up.
Ali Zeidan has said his transitional government, if approved by congress, will focus on restoring security in the oil-producing North African country where many militias have yet to disarm since last year’s overthrow of strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
Zeidan’s transitional government would replace an interim administration appointed in November after Gaddafi’s death.
Some ministers come from the liberal National Forces Alliance or the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Justice and Construction Party, the two biggest parties in the 200-member congress. Others are independents.
Aware of Libya’s sharp regional tensions, Zeidan said he had tried to strike a geographic balance among his 27 ministers.
“No region has been favored over any other,” he told congress in a televised session. “We don’t want to repeat mistakes or provoke the street.”
Congress elected Zeidan prime minister this month after his predecessor, Mustafa Abushagur, lost a confidence vote on his choice of ministers, criticized inside and outside the assembly.
A former career diplomat who defected in the 1980s to become an outspoken Gaddafi critic, Zeidan will govern the country while the congress, elected in July, passes laws and helps draft a new constitution to be put to a national referendum next year.
Outgoing Defense Minister Osama al-Juwali exposed the scale of the security challenge facing Libya’s new rulers when he said on Monday the government had no control over Bani Walid, a former Gaddafi stronghold captured by militia forces supposedly loyal to Tripoli on October 24.
Juwali said he had tried to visit the town, but troops accompanying him had been denied access. This, he said, showed that “the chief of staff has no control over the town, and this might mean armed men won’t allow civilians to go back”.
Five days earlier, the army chief of staff had announced the end of military operations in Bani Walid, one of the last towns to fall to rebels in last year’s civil war, but which some militias had accused of still sheltering Gaddafi supporters.
Zeidan nominated Ali Aujali, Libya’s ambassador to the United States, as foreign minister; Mohammed al-Barghathi, who served in the Libyan air force, as defense minister; and Abdelbari al-Arusi as oil minister.
Libyan oil industry sources said Arusi, in his 50s, studied chemical engineering and is said to have worked in several Libyan oil companies. He has a Masters and PhD from Britain.
Ashur Shuwail, nominated interior minister, was chief of police in Benghazi last year. Alikilani al-Jazi, with a background in accounting, banking and finance, was proposed as finance minister. Salah Marghani was named justice minister.
Zeidan said his nominees for the defense, interior, justice, foreign affairs, international cooperation and finance portfolios were independents. The list included two women to head the social affairs and tourism ministries.
Additional reporting by Taha Zargoun; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Alistair Lyon