Analysis - Libya's new leaders divided, untested

Thu Sep 1, 2011 1:27pm GMT

By Samia Nakhoul

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya's new rulers have been united by little more than wanting to get rid of Muammar Gaddafi and so, as they met world leaders on Thursday following his sudden downfall, the spotlight is now falling on their own divisions.

In the confusion of their swift final seizure of power, mutual suspicions are growing within the ramshackle rebel coalition, and scepticism is deepening among the Libyan people whom they must now lead. The victors of the revolution are struggling to pull together the threads of national unity.

The National Transitional Council (NTC), led largely by figures from long disadvantaged eastern Libya as well as by prominent defectors from the old regime, is under pressure from within Libya and from Western backers to form a stable, legitimate government that includes all regions and tribes.

But that is a tall order in a country where, since he seized power in a military coup on September 1, 1969, Gaddafi all but obliterated institutions other than the quirky underpinnings of his highly personalised rule.

Both the NTC and its international friends are conscious of the disaster that befell Iraq after its U.S. occupiers dissolved Saddam Hussein's army and the Baath party, creating a large pool of heavily armed men who were both angry and unemployed. It is a mistake, the Western powers are anxious not to repeat.

Yet there is great suspicion, especially among the young vanguard of the Libyan uprising, about the motives of former allies of Gaddafi who dominate the NTC under his former justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil.

"If they wanted to reform, or are capable of it, they would have done so when they occupied their old posts," said Mustafa al-Feitouri, a university professor and writer in Tripoli.

"They came from within the Gaddafi regime and with the same mentality of the old regime. Therefore many people are sceptical about their honesty and capabilities.   Continued...

Combination file photographs of  (L-R),  Head of National Transitional Council (NTC) Mustafa Abdel Jalil taken in Benghazi July 3, 2011,  Mahmoud Jibril, the executive head of the Libyan opposition NTC taken in Brussels July 13, 2011, Ali Tarhouni, Libyan NTC's minister for oil and finance, taken in Zintan July 12, 2011 and Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, Libyan rebel NTC vice chairman and official spokesman, taken in Benghazi July 2, 2011.    REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani/Thierry Roge/Ammar Awad/Thaier al-Sudani/Files
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