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Anxiety mounts as birth of interim gov't delayed in Libya

(Xinhua)

14:25, September 22, 2011

TRIPOLI, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- Though Libya's new tricolor national flag -- red, black and green with a white crescent and star in the center -- has replaced the Gaddafi-era green banner at the UN headquarters and across Libyan streets, the northern African nation is still undergoing birth pangs.

According to Mahmoud Jibril, head of the National Transitional Council (NTC) executive board, the formation of a new Libyan government will be announced in seven to 10 days -- the second delay.

It is fundamental for Libya, which experienced domestic rift and bloodshed over the past six months, to form an inclusive government that will lead the people towards reconciliation in a timely fashion, while any deferral may result in new perils.

GOV'T FORMATION POSTPONED

On Sept. 11, the NTC said in a week to 10 days' time, it would introduce an interim government that would have total control over all military units which had been fighting former strongman Muammar Gaddafi, as well as the support of representatives from different Libyan regions.

But what awaited Libyans a week later on Sept. 18 was not a new government as promised, but disappointing news of postponement due to disagreements over some positions of the transitional government. Jibril announced the delay in Benghazi, an eastern Libyan city and the cradle of the anti-Gaddafi movement.

A new promise was made by Jibril Tuesday, assuring the war-torn country an interim leadership would be established "within a week, 10 days maximum from now."

It seems reasonable that for a country where political parties and even unions were banned for decades under an iron-fisted leader, producing a new democratic government within a short time is a demanding task.

However, if the fledgling leadership gets addicted to postponing, it will lead to "a disaster for the people and the reconciliation process," said Abdelfattah Elsonoty, a local political analyst on Arab issues.

The postponement is also considered to reflect the NTC's frustration over remaining Gaddafi strongholds such as Bani Walid and Sirte, where Gaddafi supporters are still strong by taking advantage of geographical conditions.

POLITICAL CONTENDERS

Jibril said most of the work has been completed, only the number and location of ministries remained undecided.

But it is likely that these two open issues may cause trouble should the NTC fail to properly handle potential political struggles in the process of reconstruction and reconciliation. After all, Libya is not familiar with this kind of process.

Analysts say it is possible that there have already been splits inside the ruling authority. While those from eastern Libya back Jibril and NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil, western Libya remains dissatisfied with the list of nominees.

A source close to the NTC's combating squad in the northwestern town of Misrata confirmed to Xinhua Wednesday that the parties contending for power in the upcoming administration include the Islamic conservatives, the well-educated Libyans who returned to Libya to topple Gaddafi, and some members of the previous regime.

It will be hard for any of these groups to drop out of the race for a larger share of power in the upcoming leadership, said the source, who asked not to be named.

He added that what is more fearful is that differences have already emerged among those who are still fighting, which may spark future political or military conflicts once a new government is born.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT

According to the NTC's Constitution Declaration announced late August, a transitional government should be formed within 30 days after declaring liberation, and legislation on the election of a public national conference, a precondition for the election of government leaders, should be introduced within 90 days.

For the NTC, the mounting pressure comes not only from the time limit, but also from Western countries, which are pressing the country to return to normalcy so their oil deals can be finalized.

In the meantime, ordinary citizens in Libya are also eagerly anticipating a functioning government.

"Many issues are to be paid attention to (by the government)," said Abdulaziz Khoja, head of the National Association for Justice and Development, a Tripoli-based civilian organization focusing on citizens' welfare.

On Wednesday, the organization held a peaceful rally outside Jalil's house in downtown Tripoli, asking for the government to pay attention to the difficulties thousands of anti-Gaddafi war "heroes" now face.

Among them was Abdurrzag Shish, who was wounded in his left leg by fragments of rocket shells in clashes with Gaddafi's troops in April. The man, in his fifties and walking on crutches, told Xinhua that he himself paid for his medical treatment in Tunisia, as medical treatment in Libya was outdated.

Shish said he hoped the new government would be formed quickly and help its people.

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