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Libya assembly head calls for coalition government

by FP Staff  Aug 12, 2012 22:30 IST

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TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya needs an inclusive government to build on progress made by those who have guided its transition from 42 years of one-man rule under Muammar Gaddafi, the president of a newly elected national assembly said in an interview.

Mohammed Magarief, a veteran Gaddafi opponent picked by the 200-member congress as its head last week, said the North African country's new rulers needed to improve security, promote national reconciliation, tackle "unacceptable" corruption and lure back foreign investors after last year's civil war.

"Satisfaction of regional needs or aspirations also has to be considered, but this should not be at the expense of efficiency," Magarief, seen as a moderate Islamist, told Reuters on Friday when asked about the choice of the new prime minister.

The national assembly, which began life on Wednesday, will steer Libya to full parliamentary polls once a constitution is drafted next year. One of its first tasks is to appoint a prime minister within 30 days.

Calming regional rivalries is a tough problem for Libya's new leaders. Discontent has long simmered in the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the anti-Gaddafi revolt, and recent violence there highlights the difficulties of restoring security.

Since Magarief hails from the east, some say the new prime minister will be from the west, possibly the interim deputy prime minister, Mustafa Abu Shagour, who was born in Tripoli.

Magarief, a leader in the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, the oldest anti-Gaddafi movement, said the next cabinet might retain some ministers from the interim authorities "to benefit from any positive achievement" they had made.

"It should be a coalition government, a national reconciliation government," he said.

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Wartime rebel Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, whose liberal coalition won 39 out 80 party seats in the assembly, has previously called for a grand coalition.

The Justice and Construction Party (JCP), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, won 17 seats. Independents took the remaining 120. Key decisions will require a two-thirds majority.

Presiding over his first assembly meeting on Friday, Magarief announced he would quit his position as head of the National Front party to play a neutral role. He has two deputies - Giuma Attaiga, an independent from Misrata, and the JCP's Salah al-Makhzoum from Ashati district in southern Libya.

Magarief said the assembly may revise or annul laws passed by the now-dissolved National Transitional Council (NTC), notably one defining its own role in drafting a constitution.

The congress had been due to appoint a drafting committee of 60 people, but two days before the July 7 election, the NTC announced the body would be elected directly by Libyans in what was seen as an attempt to appease federalists in the east.

"It's very clear to everyone they (some laws) lack practicality, clear motives or goals," Magarief said.

Improving security is a priority in a country engaged in its first peaceful transition in its modern history, he said, adding that Libya needed the return of foreign firms now awaiting better security and a clearer political and legal landscape.

"One of our targets is ... to see the return of these companies and our economy needs (that). But this should not be at the expense of other principles and other issues."

Asked about Libya's destiny, he said: "Definitely, it will be a constitutional civil democratic state, no doubt about this." (Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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