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Libya rebels move towards forming national government

(Reuters)
Filed on March 24, 2011
Libya rebels move towards forming national government

BENGHAZI, Libya - The chief diplomat of Libya’s rebel council will be tasked with forming an interim government but this cannot be done when much of the country is in the control of Muammar Gaddafi, rebel officials said.

Al Jazeera television said earlier on Wednesday that Mahmoud Jebril was being appointed head of a new interim government. But rebel spokesman Hafiz Ghoga said such a step could only be taken when the country was united under rebel control.

Jebril, a strategy expert who spent much of his career abroad, is already head of a crisis committee managing military matters and insurgent efforts to gain international recognition.

The rebel council has avoided naming ministers to a national government for fear they would be rejected as illegitimate while the country is still riven by conflict. But one rebel spokesman confirmed Jebril was front-runner to form a new administration.

‘He will pick his ministers,’ said Mustafa Gheriani. ‘Once this is established, we will have a new transitional government. Hopefully the world will recognise us more.’

Ghoga said it was too early to name ministers in a national government and Jebril was ‘still only head of a working body for an emergency period only’.

He said a decision to form a government could only be taken once all 31 members of the national council based in the eastern city of Benghazi have decided on it.

More than half of the council’s members have not been named to ensure their security since they are in cities that Gaddafi’s forces either control or threaten, rebel officials say.

Jebril is regarded as a reformer who was involved in a state-backed project to establish a democratic state in Libya but took pains to distance himself from the Gaddafi leadership.

Educated in Egypt and the United States, Jebril spent much of his career outside Libya as a lecturer on strategic planning and decision-making before he was asked by a reformist son of Gaddafi to head Libya’s main economic planning council.

He quit in frustration when his proposals to liberalise Libya’s statist economy were rejected by the conservative establishment, and he returned to focus on his Egypt-based consultancy, according to people who know him.

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

Jebril is less well-known in Libya than rebel national council head Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Gaddafi’s former justice minister, who spent the last few weeks touring eastern towns and villages to win popular backing for the rebel leadership.

Jebril, named to head the crisis committee on March 5, stayed out of the spotlight as he toured capitals to seek foreign backing for the council.

He gained some exposure back home when the efforts began to pay off, as France recognised the council as the legitimate representative of Libya and the United Nations Security Council backed a no-fly zone and air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces.

‘He has the skills, the talent and the international relations,’ said Gheriani.

Under Abdel Jalil and Jebril, the rebel movement has rejected any suggestion that a deal can be struck with Gaddafi, saying he must be put on trial for crimes against humanity.

‘We completely refuse any cooperation, discussion or dialogue with this regime,’ Ghoga said on Wednesday. ‘We think ... that air strikes must be expanded to include areas in which civilians are threatened.’


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