Libya won't turn into an extremist Islamic country, its interim leader assured the European Union's top diplomat on Saturday, adding that the formation of a new government of experts is to be completed in the coming week.
Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, 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.
At a news conference with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, he addressed those concerns. "We will not be an extremist Islamic country," he said. "Our Islam is moderate."
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.
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 that is now being formed and will run Libya until a national assembly is elected by June. He said the 63-member NTC has four female members, citing it as an example of the political participation of women.
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 Saturday.
Ministers would be chosen based on expertise, not tribal considerations, he said.
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 30 miles (50 kilometers) 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 to four the number of people killed in the dispute over the past two days. The fighting was the latest of a series of violent confrontations between militias jockeying for position.
El-Keib, the prime minister, 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, noting that 75 percent of those carrying weapons are unemployed. "We will provide real opportunities of employment. We will support them," he said.
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.
She said she would try to ensure that billions of dollars in Libyan assets abroad, frozen as part of international sanctions against the Gadhafi regime, will be released as quickly as possible. She said she would raise the issue when European foreign ministers meet on Monday.
The EU has so far given Libya 155 million euros in humanitarian support and is to help in other fields, including building state institutions and supporting the health sector, an EU statement said.
Associated Press writer Rami al-Shaheibi contributed to this report.