January 18, 2011 / 5:34 PM / 8 years ago

Libyan news agency makes rare criticism of the army

* Libya Press Agency says some in army are corrupt

* Says Libyan army is inefficient

RABAT, Jan 18 (Reuters) - A Libyan news agency, that has links to a son of leader Muammar Gaddafi, has accused some military officers of corruption and demanded that civilians lead the defence ministry, in a rare criticism of the country’s army.

In a piece from its political editor, Libya Press, part of the Al Ghad media group founded by reform-minded Saif al-Islam said the 130,000-strong army was bloated and inefficient.

“The armed forces have taken over thousands of acres of land that were needlessly transformed into camps and barracks and later became sources of wealth for many,” Libya Press said.

“They (unidentified officers) have dealt in the assets and in the land and opened new paths ... for corruption, which the national army should have kept away from,” it wrote.

A Libyan army officer commented: “Whoever wrote this does not seem to know Libya well.”

Libya’s reformist and conservative camps have clashed in the past over the country’s political direction, and the Al Ghad group has at times been drawn into these disputes.

Libya Press questioned the army’s ability to defend the oil and gas exporting nation while “many among its leadership turn into holders of moneys, treasures, properties and monopolies”.

“Who will train this army and improve its performance and abilities when many of the officers are too old to learn ... and have lost their fitness to lavishness and comfortable lifestyle,” Libya Press asked.

Libya had too big an army for its security needs, it said.

“In Libya, the number of those working full-time in the armed forces exceeds the needs ... and is beyond both its defence policy and security needs,” it added.

The Libyan army employs 10 percent of the country’s male workforce and 2 percent of its overall population, it said.

“This is among the highest ratios in the world,” it said, noting that the Libyan army also suffered from an uneven allocation of resources.

“There are technical and administrative issues linked to the performance efficiency and the ability to continuously digest new and advanced war technologies,” it said, noting that less resources were being dedicated to training, development and equipment.

The agency also demanded that “respectable, patriotic, political and civilian figures” lead the country’s defence ministry which it said has for 30 years been led by a provisional committee.

The Libya Press news agency said in December that it had closed its operations in Libya on the grounds that a police crackdown threatened its reporters’ safety. (Reporting by Rabat newsroom)

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