Libyan prime minister poised to announce secularist cabinet

Abdurrahim al-Keib, the new Libyan prime minister, is set to announce a secularist cabinet on Tuesday.

The major surprise in leaked details of the cabinet – which has no places for prominent Islamists – is the appointment of Osama Jweli, the chief of the Zintan military council, as defence minister at the expense of the Islamist Hakim Bilhaj. Jweli is an accomplished military commander whose forces played a key role in storming Tripoli in August but, until now, he had not had a high national political profile.

Sources in Zintan told the Guardian at the weekend that the town's leadership had demanded a cabinet post in return for handing over Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who is being held at a secret location there.

Other appointments include Abdul Rahman Swehli, whose son, Ahmed, a psychiatrist at Manchester Royal Infirmary, spent the much of the war working as a doctor in the besieged city of Misrata, as the human rights minister.

Ali Tarhuni retains his post as the finance minister, but will see his oil portfolio moved to an oil and gas minister – likely to be a technocrat – who will administer Libya's oil industry, the most productive in Africa.

The major loser appears to be Abdul Hakim Bilhaj, who once fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and was jailed both in Libya and at Guantánamo Bay.

Bilhaj fought against the Gaddafi regime and was backed during the uprising by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. He was widely expected to land a key post in the new administration, having distanced himself from the Taliban and said he now supports democracy and the rule of law.

The cabinet choices are likely to find approval from Libya's western backers, who are concerned about the direction the post-Gaddafi nation will take. The Libyan president, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, has declared previously that sharia law will form the "basis" of the new Libyan constitution.

Mohammed Alagi, expected to be confirmed as the justice minister, said on Tuesday that "no way" would Saif al-Islam Gaddafi be handed over to the international criminal court for trial.

(Source: The Guardian)

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