'Weeks' needed to disband Libya militias
20 December 2011, 09:49
Tripoli - It will take weeks to rid Libya's streets
of the militias that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, and months to form an army
fit to take their place, Defence Minister Osama Al-Juwali said on
His comments signalled a rift with others in Libya's
interim leadership who have called repeatedly for the heavily-armed
militias that swept into Tripoli in August to quit the capital and set
them a deadline of the end of this month.
"I think this issue will be resolved in a month and a half, approximately. I'm not setting any deadlines," Al-Juwali said.
months after Gaddafi was captured and killed, real power resides with
the militias that ousted him and have since carved up the country and
capital into competing fiefdoms, each holding out for the share of power
they say they are owed.
Turf wars risk spiralling out of control.
was endorsed by Libya's National Transitional Council as defence
minister in November, thanks largely to the clout wielded by the rebels
he commanded in the western mountain town of Zintan.
fighters played a major role in the fall of Tripoli. They now control
the international airport and the fate of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the
ousted leader's most prominent son, who was captured by Zintan fighters
on November 19.
Without a fully functioning army or police,
Libya's interim government is struggling to stamp its authority on the
oil-producing North African country.
Senior officials, including
commanders of the nascent army, have called on the gun-toting militias
to return to their homes, and the council in Tripoli has set a deadline
Zintan fighters have already fought gun battles
with the commander of Libyan ground forces and his sons. The army
spokesperson blamed "rogue militias" and said they would "clear the city
But Al-Juwali conveyed no sense of urgency. He said the government was working on a plan, but provided few specifics.
"There is a general plan to bring the fighters in," he said.
of them will join the defence ministry, others the interior ministry.
There is another plan at the Ministry of Labour to rehabilitate and
train these fighters, and I think this plan will be approved soon."
He spoke in the offices he shares with Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib.
fighters filled the corridors. The man who piloted the Antonov that
brought Saif al-Islam Gaddafi from the desert where he was caught to his
cell in Zintan had swapped his green flight fatigues for a sharp, black
"I think the army will be ready to take on its
responsibilities before the end of the transitional government," said
Al-Juwali. The interim government is due to rule until an election
Al-Juwali said the government was analysing the needs
of the national army and what hardware it might seek from abroad. He
mentioned military transport planes, specifically US-made C-130
In the meantime, the Western powers behind
the Nato air war against Gaddafi's forces are pressing for the weapons
that swept through the country to be secured and accounted for, fearing
they might fall into the hands of radical Islamists.
enter the Guinness Book of World Records, it has so many weapons,"
Al-Juwali said. "By the time this government ends, we will have the
weapons under control and in safe places, and the revolutionaries
[former rebel fighters] will help collect them."