(Updates with comment from McCain in 10th paragraph.)
Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Libya may not have a new interim government for weeks or months, said Mahmoud Jibril, prime minister of the nation’s National Transitional Council.
No government will be formed until the entire North African country is liberated, including the cities of Sirte and Bani Walid where forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi continue to fight, Jibril told journalists yesterday in Tripoli, the capital.
“There was a decision by the NTC to maintain the executive office as is with some changes at the ministries,” he said. Libya’s liberation “can take a week, a month. We don’t know.”
The formation of an interim Cabinet has been repeatedly postponed since the NTC took Tripoli in late August. The council has been working to stabilize the economy and establish authority over factions that rebelled against Qaddafi, including the council in Misrata, the main rebel stronghold in the west during the seven-month conflict. The Misrata council is leading the Sirte operation.
The NTC is working on legislation to review and raise all salaries in the country and hasn’t yet discussed forming a new Cabinet, Jibril said.
Jibril said that while $16 billion of Libyan assets have been unfrozen, the council has gotten “much less” than this amount. The $16 billion will be more than enough to fund the government for the time being, he said.
He also said the council plans to scrap all tariffs on imports of food and foodstuffs and to import 750,000 heads of lamb to feed Libyans during the upcoming Islamic holiday Eid Al Adha. The interim government also approved payments of a 400- dinar ($323) monthly stipend to the families of those killed in the revolt and a salary of 450 dinars to 500 dinars a month for soldiers who fought in the conflict, he said.
A Republican U.S. congressional delegation, led by Senator John McCain of Arizona, toured Tripoli and met with Jibril and other council leaders. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida were also in the group.
Libya “inspires people in Tehran, Beijing, Damascus and Moscow,” McCain said. “The U.S. has confidence in this council.”
“My impressions are that they are making progress,” he said in an interview with CNN. “They do have significant challenges in a variety of ways, including the fact that a lot of the militias that are out there taking part in the fighting against Qaddafi forces are still not under their control.”
Battle for Sirte
The battle for Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte will be over “very soon,” with council forces already in control of the airport and port, NTC spokesman Abdul Busin said yesterday in a telephone interview in Tripoli. NTC forces “are holding off slightly” in some areas of Sirte for the moment, he said.
Libya now is producing 300,000 barrels a day of oil, Ali Tarhouni, the official in charge of the North African nation’s finance and oil ministries, told reporters in Tripoli yesterday.
Libyan oil production slumped to 60,000 barrels a day in July from 1.7 million barrels in January, according to the International Energy Agency, as a result of the uprising against Qaddafi’s rule.
Libya’s interim government is taking all necessary measures to control stockpiles of chemical weapons that were captured last week, The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said.
“We welcome the fact that Libyan authorities are taking necessary measures to secure the bunkers,” OPCW Director- General Ahmet Uzumcu said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “It is important for the OPCW that these stockpiles are secured and misuse is prevented.”
--With assistance from Jurjen van de Pol in Amsterdam and Caroline Alexander in London. Editors: Karl Maier, Jennifer M. Freedman
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