New Libya ‘confused’ on Islamic rule

New Libya ‘confused’ on Islamic rule

New Libya ‘confused’ on Islamic rule

Fighters from Zawiya fire a rocket towards the Warcfana tribe at the front line of the city, about 40km from Tripoli on Nov 12. REUTERS photo

Libya will not turn into an extremist Islamic country, its interim leader assured the European Union’s top diplomat Nov. 12, while at the same time failing to address a timeline for the control of anti-Gadhafi militia weapons.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), caused a stir in the West last month when he said Islamic shariah law would be the main source of legislation in the new Libya and that tenets violating it would be nullified.

“We will not be an extremist Islamic country,” he said. “Our Islam is moderate,” Abdul Jalil said at a news conference with EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.

However, other NTC members have said Abdul Jalil had expressed his personal views on the role of shariah law. They noted that a constitution, which would address the role of religion in Libya, will only be written next year.

Asked whether she was concerned about the rise of Islamist groups in Libya, Ashton said: “We support all groups who believe in the values that we hold dear, of democracy, human rights, the rule of law.”

Ashton told a women’s conference in Tripoli that Libya’s women should make sure their rights are enshrined in the future constitution, calling for gender-equality in the male-dominated country.

“The European Union wants to be with you on this journey, to try and help overcome the political and social barriers, to help ensure your role in shaping your future,” Ashton said

Abdul Jalil said women would play a role in Libyan politics and business and that they would be represented in the interim government, which is now being formed and will run Libya until a national assembly is elected in June. The recently appointed prime minister, Abdurrahim el-Keib, is to present the list of names of the new ministers to the NTC in the coming week, Abdul Jalil said Nov. 12. Ministers would be chosen based on expertise, not tribal considerations, he said.

Clashes continue as weapons pose threat

Ashton opened an EU office in Tripoli and said her visit was meant to show support for the post-Gadhafi Libya. “We hope to be here for many years as your partner,” she told Abdul Jalil.

Ashton’s visit came 48 hours ahead of a meeting of the EU’s 27 foreign ministers, who Nov. 14 will look at means of helping Libya recover from the months-long conflict. Ashton said she would raise the issue of billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets abroad during this meeting. Diplomatic sources said the ministers were likely to call for an inclusive transition process and express concern about reports of human rights violations. They would also confirm the bloc’s readiness to assist Libya in a range of sectors.

 Since the beginning of the crisis, the EU has provided more than 155 million euros in humanitarian support. The European Commission in addition is making 30 million euros available to support the immediate stabilization priorities of the NTC, with a further 50 million euros set aside for longer-term programs.

Meanwhile, the NTC chief was evasive when asked about growing concerns about the uncontrolled ownership of weapons. Since the end of the eight-month civil war that toppled the Gadhafi regime, rival anti-Gadhafi militias have clashed repeatedly.

On Saturday, two former fighters from the coastal city of Zawiya, some 50 km west of Tripoli, were killed in a clash with a rival militia from a nearby town, said Mukhtar al-Akhdar, commander of an armed group that was not involved in the confrontation. Saturday’s deaths brought the number of people killed in the dispute over the past two days to four. The fighting was the latest of a series of violent confrontations between militias jockeying for position.

El-Keib has said he could not disarm fighters until he has prepared alternatives, including jobs and training. Abdul Jalil seemed to affirm the slow approach Saturday, saying 75 percent of those carrying weapons were unemployed. “We will provide real opportunities of employment. We will support them,” he said.

Compiled from AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.