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Libya names new prime minister, head of oil sector

Written by: Staff

TRIPOLI, Mar 6: Libya's top legislative and executive body appointed al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi as Prime Minister, replacing the reform-minded Shokri Ghanem who was put in charge of the country's oil sector.

The General People's Congress also said in a statement yesterday that Fathi Omar Bin Shatwan, who was oil minister during Ghanem's premiership, lost the oil portfolio in the cabinet reshuffle, with his department renamed the Industry, Electricity and Mining Ministry.

Ghanem was appointed chairman of the National Oil Corporation, replacing Abdallah Al Badri and giving him effective control over oil policy, it said.

The congress also named Farhat Omar Bin Guidara as the new central bank governor, replacing Ahmed Mohammed Moneisi.

Moneisi takes the job of Finance Minister, replacing Mohammed Ali al-Houeiz, who becomes the North African country's Deputy Prime Minister.

Deputy Interior Minister Salah Rajab Al-Masmari was named as the new Interior Minister, replacing Nasser al-Mabrouk Abdallah, who was fired last month.

The Congress had blamed him for the ''disproportionate use of force'' on February 17 when police killed 11 people and injured more than 60 to prevent youths storming the Italian consulate in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi in protests over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said last week the protesters had sought to kill the Italian consul and his family.

The statement, read out on state television, gave no reason for the government reshuffle.

But diplomats in Tripoli said Ghanem, who has been pushing a broad programme of reforms with the support of Gaddafi's son Saif Al Islam, was sacked after he lost a fight with dominant conservatives who control the congress and the revolutionary committees, the de facto single ruling party in Libya.

Ghanem planned to privatise most state-owned companies, slash subsidies on consumer goods and give the private sector a broader role in the economy.

The conservatives -- who fear the reforms will undermine political stability -- have assailed Ghanem over the last year, casting doubt over the success of the reforms, but he had held onto power thanks to the backing of Gaddafi.

The diplomats said the central bank governor and finance minister promotions showed the conservatives had gained the upper hand in the battle for control of the government.

Economy and Trade Minister Abdel-Qader Omar Belkheir was replaced by Tayeb Safi Tayeb.


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