Libyan leader vows army, police force in 100 days

AP News
Posted: Dec 12, 2011 5:20 PM
Libyan leader vows army, police force in 100 days

Libya's new leaders said Monday they hope to have a working army and police force up and running in 100 days time, and said ministries would be relocated to cities across the country in a bid to decentralize national authority.

National Transitional Council chairman Mustafa Abdul-Jalil told reporters in the capital Tripoli that that timeline should suffice to restructure the nation's security apparatus and build confidence it its forces.

"We will announce a system for the security structure of the army and have established police and border guards in no more than 100 days," Abdul-Jalil said.

Gen. Khalifa Hifter, the commander of the fledgling national army, said he believes the 100-day timetable gives new recruits enough time to train and reorganize after the eight-month civil war that ended with Moammar Gadhafi's death in October.

But Hifter told The Associated Press it will take at least three to five years before Libya can have a strong enough army that is able to protect the vast desert nation's borders.

Neither Hifter nor Abdul-Jalil provided any information on the size of either the army or security forces they hoped to put together.

Aware of growing popular frustration with the transition, Abdul-Jalil asked Libyans to give the new interim government time to get the country back on its feet. He also said power would be decentralized so that other cities would have a share of the power once centralized in Tripoli.

In a statement read out by Abdelraziq al-Ardy, an NTC representative from Tripoli, the NTC has decided that Benghazi, the eastern city where the anti-Gadhafi uprising broke out, will serve as Libya's economic hub, with the economy and oil ministries relocated there. Misrata, a business hub that played a key role in the fight against Gadhafi's forces, will be home to the Finance Ministry, while the eastern city of Darna will host the Culture Ministry, he said.

Most of the remaining ministries will be in Tripoli, he said.

There will also be 50 local councils and administrative offices with their own budgets across Libya as part of decentralization efforts, Abdul-Jalil said earlier in the day.

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The decentralization effort appeared to be aimed at defusing regional tensions that arose during the war and have intensified since Gadhafi's death in October. In the war's aftermath, regions that played a leading role have pushed for a greater say in a post-Gadhafi Libya.

Also Monday, around 2,000 people protested in Benghazi, calling for transparency and justice from the country's new leaders.

Protester Shoaib Idris, 29, said he wants to see fair, speedy and open trials for members of Gadhafi's regime, starting with the ousted leader's son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, who was captured last month.

Idris, an oil engineer, said 15 of his relatives were killed during Gadhafi's 42-year rule.

"We are not asking for something dreamlike, but what we are asking from the chairman is to change the old regime's ways and for clarity in the transition process," Idris said referring to Abdul-Jalil.

Protesters in Benghazi carried signs that read "Libyan youth will protect the Feb. 15 revolution."


Batrawy contributed from Cairo.