Libya’s ex-oil minister criticizes new leaders


TRIPOLI: A senior official in Libya’s outgoing transitional government has sharply criticized the country’s new leadership as an unrepresentative “elite” supported by outside powers.

Former oil and finance minister Ali Tarhouni also suggested in a press conference late Thursday that at least one of those foreign powers is meddling excessively in Libya’s internal affairs — an apparent reference to Qatar.

Tarhouni, a former professor of economics and finance at the University of Washington, was one of the most visible and internationally respected faces of the Libyan revolutionary leadership that presided over the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime.

But he said he refused an offer to join Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Kib’s transitional Cabinet, because he believes that those now in power are not representative. He accused them of being “supported from the outside by money, arms and PR.”

“The voices that we see now are the voices of the elite,” he said.

The US-educated Tarhouni, who managed the then-rebel government’s financial system, is one of the first senior Libyan politicians to openly question the new government’s legitimacy.

He said the countries who backed the rebellion have interests in Libya, “some which we know and some which we don’t know.” While he didn’t elaborate, Tarhouni did not object when a journalist suggested that he was speaking about Qatar.

The Gulf state was a leading Arab backer of the uprising that toppled Qaddafi’s regime, providing warplanes to the NATO-led air campaign as well as direct help to the revolutionaries with arms and other equipment

Tarhouni, who spoke several hours after El-Kib’s new government was sworn in, said he felt relieved at finally being able to speak his mind freely.

“Some are thinking of imposing their will on the Libyan people and that’s a mistake,” Tarhouni said. “For me the question of sovereignty is the most important. This revolution was for re-establishing dignity and sovereignty.”

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Categories: Africa, Libya

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