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Libyan lawmakers choose ex-diplomat as prime minister

October 14, 2012 |  2:01 pm

Libyan lawmakers selected Ali Zidan as prime minister
TRIPOLI, Libya -- Libyan lawmakers selected Ali Zidan as prime minister Sunday night, giving the former human rights lawyer and diplomat responsibility for forming the volatile nation’s first government since the revolution that toppled Moammar Kadafi.

The selection of Zidan came a week after the parliament fired the previous prime minister, Mustafa Abushagur, whose cabinet nominees were met with protests and illustrated Libya’s regional and tribal divisions.

Zidan is expected to move quickly to name a cabinet to deal with Libya’s many pressing challenges, including the investigation of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in the eastern city of Benghazi, which killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The attack highlighted the security troubles plaguing Libya, where former revolutionary militias are serving as the de facto army and police until national security forces can be rebuilt following Kadafi’s four-decade rule.

Zidan won 93 of the 179 votes cast in the national assembly. That secured him a narrow win over the Muslim Brotherhood-supported candidate, Mohammed Harari, the minister for local government.

Lawmakers said that Zidan, who won a parliamentary seat as an independent but resigned to pursue the prime minister’s post, would be able to win the support of conservatives.

“He’s a very good choice. He’s familiar with our problems and his cabinet choices will be good,” said Suliman Zubi, an independent lawmaker from Benghazi. “He can negotiate with anybody.”

Among the Libyan government’s other challenges is resolving a conflict in the western town of Bani Walid, a former Kadafi stronghold where a prominent rebel fighter was detained and reportedly tortured to death last month. A powerful militia from the western town of Misrata, home to the rebel fighter, has shelled the town south of Tripoli and human rights groups report that several people have been killed in the standoff.


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Photo: Demonstrators from the city of Bani Walid hold placards and shout slogans during a protest in Tripoli last week against the siege of their city. The standoff in the city is one of a number of challenges facing newly selected Prime Minister Ali Zidan. Credit: Sabri Elmhedwi / EPA