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Libya's new PM, little-known technocrat facing huge tasks

02 november 2011, 13:33
Libya's newly elected Prime Minister Abdul Raheem al-Keeb. ©Reuters
Libya's newly elected Prime Minister Abdul Raheem al-Keeb. ©Reuters
Abdel Rahim al-Keib, the man elected Monday to lead the task of rebuilding Libya after eight months of conflict, is a little known technocrat who won the support of the country's revolutionary council, AFP reports.

An academic and a wealthy businessman, Keib spent decades abroad as an opponent of Moamer Kadhafi, before quickly joining the pro-democracy revolution that erupted in February and finally triumphed on October 20.

His experience as a technocrat, his generous financial support for the National Transitional Council and the presentation he delivered to voting NTC members earlier Monday culminated in his election.

"The main aspects of his programme were the stability of the country, of course, the security file and the military file, which will be under the control... of the interior ministry," said Fathi Baja, the NTC's head of political affairs.

"He also promised to provide for the basic needs of the Libyan people."

Keib won 26 out of 51 votes to become Libya's new prime minister, seeing off four rival candidates, notably interim oil minister Ali Tarhuni and Idriss Abu Fayed, a Kadhafi opponent who was jailed by the former regime.

Born in Tripoli in 1950, Keib belongs to a prestigious family from Sabratha, a coastal town 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of the capital.

He trained as an electrical engineer in the United States in the early 1980s, teaching at science faculties there, at Tripoli university and in the United Arab Emirates, where he worked for the state-run Petroleum Institute.

His profile on the Petroleum Institute's website also lists links with a number of international professional bodies, from the South Korean Institute of Electrical Engineers to the Islamic Development Bank.

In 2005, he founded the International Company for Energy and Technology in Libya.

Shortly after his appointment Monday, Keib vowed to make human rights his priority. The new regime faces a string of accusations over human rights, including international controversy over the circumstances of Kadhafi's death

"We guarantee that we are going to build a nation that respects human rights and does not accept the abuse of human rights. But we need time," he told reporters.

Keib's appointment will come as a relief to many Libyans worried about the country's lack of decisive leadership, following his predecessor Mahmud Jibril's decision to step down, and the daunting challenges the NTC faces in rebuilding the war-torn nation.

Among the most pressing of these is the task of disarming the country, awash with weapons, and to integrate the disparate and heavily armed militias that won the war into a professional army.

Keib said his administration would work with the NTC fighters to restore stability and demilitarise.

"We are very aware that our brothers, the revolutionary fighters, share the same opinion as us. They also believe that the stability of the country is extremely important."

With his energy background, he also seems to be a sound choice of leader to oversee the reconstruction of Libya's all-important oil sector, whose production collapsed during the revolution.

The new prime minister is now charged with forming a transitional government within the coming two weeks, which must organise the election of a 200-member assembly, or general national congress, in eight months' time.

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