Libya aims for govt in two weeks

2011-10-25 09:07

Benghazi - Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil set a two-week target Monday for the country to have a new government and said a commission of inquiry will probe Muammar Gaddafi’s killing.

"We have begun talks [on forming a government], and this matter will not take a month but will be finished within two weeks," the National Transitional Council (NTC) chairperson told a news conference in the eastern city of Benghazi.

A day after the NTC's declaration of Libya's liberation in the wake of Gaddafi’s capture and death, Abdel Jalil also said a commission of inquiry is being set up to probe the controversial killing of the fallen strongman.

"In response to international calls, we have started to put in place a commission tasked with investigating the circumstances of Muammar Gaddafi’s death in the clash with his circle as he was being captured," Abdel Jalil said.

And after having raised concern in the West by stressing on Sunday that the new Libya will be governed in line with Islamic sharia law, the NTC chief gave assurances it would remain a "moderate" Muslim country.

"I would like to assure the international community that we as Libyans are Muslims but moderate Muslims," he said.

The French foreign ministry said Paris will keep a watch over Libya's respect for human rights after the promise of a system of sharia to run post-Gaddafi Libya.

New phase

"We will be watchful of respect for human rights and democratic principles, notably cultural and religious diversity and the equality of men and women to which France is unswervingly attached," ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero said.

And EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the introduction of sharia in Libya must respect human rights.

Abdel Jalil's two-week timeline came as Libya's new leaders embarked on the tough task of forging an interim government uniting disparate political forces after 42 years of Gaddafi’s iron-fisted rule, under which sharia took a back seat.

"Today, we begin preparing for a new phase... the phase after the liberation, the phase that we will plan and work hard for the future of Libya," said Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice chairperson of the NTC.

"Let us start work on the adoption of the constitution," he said on Sunday as he declared liberation from Gaddafi’s rule at a rally attended by tens of thousands of revellers in Benghazi, birthplace of the anti-Gaddafi revolt.

Under an NTC roadmap, an interim government is to be formed and then polls for a constituent assembly to draft a new basic law held within eight months - the first democratic vote since Gaddafi came to power in a 1969 coup.

Parliamentary and presidential elections would be held within a year after that -- or within 20 months of Sunday's declaration.

The head of operations in Libya for Nato, which has said it will wind down its seven-month mission by October 31, said on Monday that the country is "essentially" free from threat of attack by Gaddafi loyalists.

Raging controversy

"All areas have been freed," Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard said at a video news conference from the operation's Naples operational headquarters. "The threat of Gaddafi remnants is essentially gone."

The long-awaited liberation announcement came amid raging controversy over the circumstances of Gaddafi’s death after he was taken alive during the fall of his hometown Sirte last Thursday.

Disquiet has grown internationally over how Gaddafi met his end after NTC fighters hauled him out of a culvert where he was hiding following Nato air strikes on the convoy in which he had been trying to flee his falling hometown.

Mobile phone videos show him still alive at that point.

The corpses of Gaddafi - which a bullet wound to the head - his son Mutassim, and decades-long confidant Abubakr Yunes still lay in a meat market freezer on the outskirts of the city of Misrata on Monday.

Since Friday, thousands of ordinary Libyans have viewed the bodies of the slain men, many taking pictures on their mobile phone.

"His cadaver has been kidnapped and exhibited as a war trophy, a conduct that violates the most elemental principles of Muslim norms and other religious beliefs," Cuban leader Fidel Castro wrote in an opinion column on Monday.

Libya's interim prime minister Mahmud Jibril said in Jordan on Sunday that an autopsy report showed Gaddafi was killed in "crossfire from both sides."

Hundreds of returning residents

Human Right Watch, meanwhile, urged the NTC to probe the killing of 53 people whose decaying bodies were found in Sirte, where the pro-Gaddafi camp put up its final stand.

"We found 53 decomposing bodies, apparently Gaddafi supporters, at an abandoned hotel in Sirte," said Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch (HRW), who investigated the killings.

"Some had their hands bound behind their backs when they were shot."

In the devastated city of Sirte, hundreds of returning residents on Monday found their streets littered with corpses, and their houses pillaged and destroyed.

Burst water pipes - gutted during the final, Nato-backed offensive by NTC fighters - flooded streets, while electricity inside people's homes remained cut and taps dry.

Angry residents said they were struggling to find water and food.

"Sarkozy is a horrible man!" an old man yelled at a group of French journalists, referring to France's President Nicolas Sarkozy who spearheaded international support for the revolution.

"He did this to our city. He is just like Hitler," he cried.

Read more on:    ntc  |  mustafa abdel jalil  |  muammar gaddafi  |  libya  |  north africa  |  uprisings  |  libya protests
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