Former rebels who helped to topple Libya’s late dictator Muammar Qaddafi and a human rights lawyer whose arrest sparked the uprising were handed key posts in a new government unveiled on Tuesday.
Interim prime minister Abdul Raheem al-Keeb announced the new cabinet line-up at a news conference just a month after the capture and lynching of Qaddafi who ruled the country with an iron-fist for 42 years.
“I can reassure everyone: all of Libya is (represented) in the new government,” Keeb told reporters of the line-up which had originally been due to be announced on Sunday.
The delay in its unveiling was apparently caused by the arrest on Saturday of Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, the prominent son and onetime heir-apparent of the slain dictator.
Osama Juili, commander of the Zintan fighters who arrested Seif, got the defense ministry, while the interior ministry went to Fawzi Abdelal from the former rebel town of Misrata, whose fighters captured Qaddafi in October.
Other key appointments announced by Keeb include Abdelrahman bin Yazza to head the oil and gas ministry and Ashur bin Khayyal as interim foreign minister.
Lawyer Fethi Tarbel, whose brief arrest on February 15 was the spark that began the popular uprising against Qaddafi’s regime in the eastern city of Benghazi, was named minister of youth and sport.
Keeb will head a 24-member government which will include such portfolios as the ministry of martyrs, wounded and missing people, and a ministry of civilian society.
The National Transitional Council gave the new government its vote of confidence, NTC vice chairman and official spokesman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga said.
The NTC, whose rebel fighters backed by NATO air support toppled Qaddafi in October, chose Keeb, a little-known university professor from Tripoli, on October 31 to form an interim government.
Roadmap to new Libya
Having declared the country’s “liberation” three days after the October 20 capture and killing of Qaddafi, the NTC has launched a roadmap to a new Libya with a 20-month countdown to a general election.
Under the roadmap, the NTC is to hand over power to a 200-member elected assembly within eight months which in turn has two months to name a premier whose government must form a commission to draw up a constitution.
The NTC published its roadmap in August and is due to step down once the congress holds its first session.
Keeb has said the new government will be formed of technocrats, although he has come under pressure from Libya’s tribes and numerous armed factions which had been demanding a role.
An NTC statement distributed after Keeb unveiled his government spelled out the tasks expected to be accomplished by the cabinet, with the “restoration of normal life.”
“This provisional government aims to achieve the following: first security, stability and restoration of normal life by providing basic social services, the return of children to their schools and the payment of (overdue) salaries,” it said.
It also pledged to establish “justice which guarantees the rights of individuals who have been harmed over the past 42 years and also which guarantees those accused a fair trial.”
The new government, the statement said, will help efforts by the NTC “to achieve national reconciliation” in Libya.
It will also strive to rebuild the army and the security forces and promote “the integration of interested citizens into these institutions.”
Hours before Keeb’s news conference, the Zintan military council whose fighters captured Seif al-Islam issued a statement denying that the defense ministry would be given to Juili as a bribe because his men allegedly refused to hand over Qaddafi’s son to the NTC.
“The Zintan military council denies the information published by media according to which Zintan is involved in blackmail regarding Seif al-Islam in return for a cabinet post,” a statement said.
It said Seif was held in Zintan “for security reasons in agreement with the National Transitional Council.”
Libya is struggling to build new institutions out of the wreckage of Qaddafi’s one-man rule, when corruption was rampant and state institutions were left to decay.
The Hague-based ICC has indicted Saif al-Islam for crimes against humanity. But chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said on a visit to Tripoli that Saif al-Islam could be tried inside Libya as long as the trial complies with ICC standards.
Libyan officials have promised a fair trial but the country still has the death penalty on its books, whereas the severest punishment the ICC can impose is life imprisonment.