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Libya delays forming a government; fighting continues in 2 cities

Wrangling among various groups continues for Cabinet and other posts. Meanwhile, rebel fighters clash with pro-Kadafi forces in Surt and Bani Walid.

September 19, 2011|By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times
  • Libyan rebel in Bani Walid, a city still controlled by forces loyal to Moammar Kadafi.
Libyan rebel in Bani Walid, a city still controlled by forces loyal to Moammar… (Mohamed Messara, European…)

Reporting from Tripoli, Libya — Libya's provisional rulers on Sunday put off "indefinitely" their much-anticipated naming of a new government tasked with guiding the nation forward after the ouster of longtime leader Moammar Kadafi.

Meanwhile, new clashes were reported in two remaining pro-Kadafi strongholds, the coastal city of Surt, Kadafi's birthplace, and the desert town of Bani Walid, southeast of Tripoli.

Mahmoud Jibril, the No. 2 leader in Libya's Transitional National Council, told reporters in the eastern city of Benghazi that the filling of Cabinet positions and other posts had been delayed pending final discussions among various groups.

"I hope that the consultations will be over quickly," said Jibril, a U.S.-educated political scientist who had served for several years as an economic advisor for the Kadafi regime.

Jibril, who has been a lightning rod for criticism in some circles, was widely expected to maintain his post as interim premier. Ali Tarhouni, a U.S.-educated economist who has handled oil and economics portfolios for the transitional rulers, was expected to be named interim finance minister.

Wrangling among Libyans keen to have a part in the evolving process probably played a part in the delay.

The council is an unelected group that has received recognition from the United Nations, Washington and many other capitals as the legitimate provisional representative of the Libyan people, pending elections. But the ouster of Kadafi has exposed fissures in a broad-based opposition that had been focused exclusively on toppling the dictator.

Tensions have emerged between the council and other players in the new Libya, including militias, Islamists and regional representatives. Bringing the disparate factions under one governing body has proved a daunting challenge in a nation with no history of representative government.

The council has been under pressure to speed the transition to elections and the writing of a constitution.

But Jibril has said the setting of a date for elections must wait until the nation is fully liberated from the grasp of Kadafi, who remains a fugitive and has urged his followers to wage guerrilla warfare against the nation's incoming rulers.

Critics have accused Jibril and his allies of scheming to consolidate their power during the transitional period. Jibril, in turn, has assailed unnamed groups for embarking on the "political game" before the nation is completely freed from the old regime.

Jibril, who served as a kind of roving rebel ambassador during the months of fighting in Libya, voiced hope that women and young people would be well represented in the new nation.

The fighting in the pro-Kadafi bastions appeared to remain locked in stalemates.

Forces allied with the transitional government reported one dead and 15 wounded in clashes Sunday in or around Surt. Thousands of rebel fighters have besieged the city but have met with stiff resistance from well-armed Kadafi loyalists.

In Bani Walid, the Associated Press reported Sunday that the two sides exchanged rocket and antiaircraft fire. Anti-Kadafi fighters have stormed the town on several occasions, only to be beaten back and forced into chaotic retreats.

patrick.mcdonnell@latimes.com

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