New Libyan P.M. begins selecting Cabinet

Oct. 15, 2012 at 3:00 AM
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TRIPOLI, Libya, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Libya's new prime minister Monday began considering possible Cabinet members, including ministers in charge of catching the U.S. Consulate attackers.

Ali Zidan, a former human rights lawyer and long-time opponent of deposed and slain Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, was elected prime minister Sunday and was "asked to propose a Cabinet within two weeks," General National Congress President Mohammed Magariaf said in nationally televised remarks.

Zidan, 62, a former independent congressman who gave up his seat to run for prime minister, beat Muslim Brotherhood Justice and Construction Party candidate Mohammed al-Harari, the local government minister, 93 to 83, the congress said in a statement.

The 200-member congress chose Zidan a week after dismissing Mustafa Abushagur, designated prime minister just 25 days earlier, for failing to present a list of Cabinet members that legislators liked.

Zidan was a career diplomat for Gadhafi until he defected with Magariaf in 1980 and joined the opposition in exile.

During the revolution that ousted Gadhafi, Zidan served as the National Transitional Council's European envoy and is credited with having played a key role in persuading French President Nicolas Sarkozy to support the anti-Gadhafi forces, the BBC reported.

"He's a very good choice," said Suliman Zubi, an independent lawmaker from the eastern city of Benghazi, was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying. "He's familiar with our problems and his Cabinet choices will be good. He can negotiate with anybody."

Zidan's Cabinet choices are widely expected to include defense and interior ministers, responsible for investigating the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and apprehending the killers of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other State Department employees.

The attack highlighted security troubles plaguing Libya, where former revolutionary militias are the de facto army and police until government security forces can be re-established, the Times said.

Zidan told the congress his "highest priority" would be to form a professional army and police force.

Libya has detained no suspects in the consulate attack, The New York Times said. Leaders of Ansar al-Sharia, the main militia group that witnesses saw mounting the attack, are still at large.

White House chief counter-terrorism adviser John O. Brennan discussed with senior Libyan officials in Tripoli last week "specific additional steps Libya can take to better assist the U.S. in ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to justice," the White House said Wednesday.

Libyan officials say they are trying to apprehend the killers but acknowledge they lack investigative experience.

"We can't ask the old Gadhafi intelligence people to help. They hate the Americans," Libyan government adviser Mohamad al-Akari was quoted by The Daily Beast as saying.

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