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Libya nears appointment of new oil minister

Internal rivalries are still hitting the National Transitional Council’s (NTC) efforts to form a new Libyan government and uncertainty hangs over the future of Mahmoud Jibril, the fledgling government’s second-in-command

THE NTC is closing in on a new oil minister, with Abdul-Rahman Benyezza, a former board member of National Oil Company (NOC), topping the list of names, according to a senior Libyan oil-industry source.

Wahid Bugaighis, who earlier in the war had a stint in charge of the NTC’s oil portfolio from Benghazi, is also still in contention, said the source. But Mustafa El Houni, a former executive at NOC trading unit Brega International, who has been touted by some analysts as another candidate, is out of the running, the source said. Disputes within the NTC have delayed announcement of a new government and plans to include more than 30 cabinet ministers have complicated the process.

The future of Jibril is under a cloud. He has joined Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of the NTC and the council’s senior statesman, at a gathering of the UN in New York, where the men will represent Libya. Jibril's role in the new government will not be decided until the men return.

Although some analysts expect him to remain as prime minister, Jibril may also become the new government’s foreign minister. Jibril’s opponents have been critical of his frequent absences from Libya in recent months, as well as his four-year stint in Muammar Qadhafi’s government.

Jalil, meanwhile, insists that he will play no official role in the new government, despite some calls for him to lead it.

Ali Tarhouni, the NTC’s finance minister, is also likely to lose some influence, with a probable appointment to become a deputy finance minister. Tarhouni has enjoyed support from Western governments, who dealt with him throughout the conflict. But his powerbase within Libya is considered to be weak. The NTC has also been under pressure to give more seniority to Islamists and other elements within the war’s anti-Qadhafi movement.

Rebels from Misrata, which withstood some of the heaviest fighting of the war, continue to pose a problem for leaders from Benghazi. Misrata’s brigade even proposed their own prime minister to replace Jibril, Abdul-Rahman Sweilhi.

The assassination of the rebel army’s leader, Abdel-Fattah Younis, in July also hangs over negotiations to form the new government. The NTC blamed Islamist elements for the killing, but the general’s tribe, the Obeidi, have expressed disquiet over how the council has handled the affair and say unless the assassins are found they will take their own revenge.

Meanwhile, Sirte, Bani Walid, Sabha and several towns in the south continue to resist anti-Qadhafi forces, leading some to ask whether the NTC should be forming a new government when all of Libya has not yet fallen to the new authorities.

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