Libya’s prime minister-designate said he was ready to name a government to steer the country to its first fully democratic elections but gave no details of a line-up that may involve a delicate power balance in a fragile new state.
Three months after Muammar Gaddafi fled Tripoli in the face of a revolt against his 42-year rule, Abdurrahim El-Keib said he would name a cabinet of experts on Tuesday rather than yield to pressure from all quarters for a share of power.
“We will use competence as a basic measure and this way we will be able to include all of Libya’s regions. You will see,” Keib told a news conference with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, Reuters reports.
Keib, who worked as an academic in the United States during much of Gaddafi’s rule, has long said he intends to name a “technocratic” provisional government, which will pick candidates based on competence rather than politics.
But tensions between various military and regional factions have lingered, as demonstrated by the capture on Saturday of Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam in the southern desert.
The fighters from the Western Mountains town of Zintan who seized him on Saturday are holding him in their stronghold until the central government is formed. They say it is to ensure he is not killed while in the hands of another armed group, as his father was in his hometown of Sirte last month.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said in Geneva it had asked Libyan authorities to be allowed to visit Saif al-Islam in prison and expected the visit to take place soon.
Nine months after the start of the uprising that sparked a civil war and eventually toppled Gaddafi, Keib’s cabinet will have the task of rebuilding a country scarred by conflict and decades of dictatorship that hollowed out many institutions.
It is due to stay in place until the middle of next year, when elections to a constituent assembly should be held.
Keib said he would discuss the appointments with the National Transitional Council (NTC), the body which led the war effort against Gaddafi and has ruled the country since his fall.
“Probably within a couple of hours or so I will be visiting the NTC to discuss things related to the matter at hand,” Keib told reporters.
“We have decided that tomorrow is the date when we will announce the government but we’re working hard to ensure that what we have is something solid, cohesive, capable of doing the job,” he added.
Keib went on to cast doubt on whether Gaddafi’s former intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, had indeed been captured on Sunday as was widely believed, saying he needed to verify the information himself before confirming it.
“Before I can confirm it to you, I would like to confirm to myself that he was indeed captured. I will not confirm it to you until I am 100 percent sure,” he told a news conference.
A spokesman for the NTC said on Sunday local officials in the desert town of Sabha had confirmed Senussi’s capture.
When asked about Keib’s remarks, a senior NTC commander said Senussi had definitely been captured.
“He is in the hands of the Je’fel Fezzan” General Ahmed al-Hamdouni said, using the name of the force he said conducted the mission in the same region in which Saif al-Islam was found.
Keib said Saif al-Islam and Senussi would receive a fair trial in Libya. That could lead to conflict with the Hague-based International Criminal Court, which has indicted both men, along with Gaddafi, for crimes against humanity.
It is unclear how the West will respond to Libya’s insistence that it can try both men rather than hand them over to the ICC. At the joint news conference, Rice preferred not to comment on the issue.
France said on Monday it wanted to try Senussi over a 1989 airliner bombing in Niger that killed 170 people including 54 French nationals.