No place for extremist Islam: Libya interim leader

Last Updated: Saturday, November 12, 2011 - 21:39

Tripoli: Libya won`t turn into an extremist Islamic country, its interim leader assured the European Union`s top diplomat on Saturday, adding that the formation of a new government of experts is to be completed in the coming week.

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, caused a stir in the West last month when he said Islamic Shariah law would be the main source of legislation in the new Libya and that tenets violating it would be nullified.

At a news conference with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, he addressed those concerns. "We will not be an extremist Islamic country," he said. "Our Islam is moderate."

Other NTC members have said Abdul-Jalil had expressed his personal views on the role of Shariah law. They noted that a Constitution, which would address the role of religion in Libya, will only be written next year.

As part of Libya`s transition to democracy, following the capture and killing of dictator Muammar Gaddafi last month, a new interim government will run the country until a national assembly is elected by June. The recently appointed prime minister, Abdurrahim el-Keib, is to present a list of names of ministers to the NTC in the coming week, Abdul-Jalil said on Saturday.

Ministers would be chosen based on expertise, not tribal considerations, he said.

The NTC chief was evasive when asked about growing concerns about the uncontrolled ownership of weapons. Since the end of the eight-month civil war that toppled the Gaddafi regime, rival anti-Gaddafi militias have clashed repeatedly.

On Friday, a dispute between armed groups from the coastal city of Zawiya, some 30 miles (50 kilometres) west of Tripoli, and the nearby town of Warshefana left two people dead. The circumstances of the deaths remained unclear. It was the latest in a series of violent confrontations between militias jockeying for position.

El-Keib, the prime minister, has said he could not disarm fighters until he has prepared alternatives, including jobs and training. Abdul-Jalil seemed to affirm the slow approach Saturday, noting that 75 percent of those carrying weapons are unemployed. "We will provide real opportunities of employment. We will support them," he said.

Ashton said she visited Tripoli to show her support for the post-Gaddafi Libya. "We hope to be here for many years as your partner," she told Abdul-Jalil.

She said she would try to ensure that billions of dollars in Libyan assets abroad, frozen as part of international sanctions against the Gaddafi regime, will be released as quickly as possible. She said she would raise the issue when European foreign ministers meet on Monday.

The EU has so far given Libya EUR 155 million in humanitarian support and is to help in other fields, including building state institutions and supporting the health sector, an EU statement said.

Bureau Report



First Published: Saturday, November 12, 2011 - 21:39

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