Libyan defense minister: New army top priority

AP News
Posted: Dec 04, 2011 4:55 PM
Libyan defense minister: New army top priority

Libya's new defense minister said Sunday that one of biggest obstacles in forging a new national military is unifying the disparate revolutionary militias that helped topple Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

More than six weeks since Libya's civil war ended, the country's new leaders are still struggling to stamp their authority on the nation and rein in the dozens of armed factions that arose during the war and now are reluctant to disband or submit to central authority.

"We have to reorganize," said Osama al-Juwali. "Most of the rebels are armed and most of them are young. They can be a bit careless and sometimes accidents happen, this is one of the primary obstacles."

He did not say how he plans to bring the fighters under the umbrella of a national army, but said he is in no rush to disarm fighters still in the capital. Tripoli residents have also become increasingly frustrated with fighters from other areas of Libya who have taken over prime locations in the city.

Al-Juwali, who was a commander of revolutionary forces from the western mountain town of Zintan and played a role in the capture Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, was sworn in Sunday before the country's new leaders and other Cabinet ministers. Seven other ministers were also sworn in to complete the 24-member Cabinet.

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The head of Libya's National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, outlined the priorities of the new government, including looking after the families of those killed in the war, treating the injured, reintegrating the fighters with society.

Also Sunday, drivers across the country waited in long lines to fuel their cars as fears of a shortages were brought on by a strike by gas-tanker truck drivers who say they have not been paid.