Abdul Raheem al-Keeb elected Libya's interim PM


Posted at Nov 01 2011 11:57 AM | Updated as of Nov 02 2011 12:54 AM

TRIPOLI - Tripoli academic and former student in the United States, Abdul Raheem al-Keeb, was elected Libya's interim prime minister in a vote by members of the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) in front of reporters on Monday.

The NTC has promised to hold elections after eight months for a national assembly that will then spend a year drawing up a new constitution before a parliamentary poll.

"This transition period has its own challenges. One thing we will be doing is working very closely with the NTC and listening to the Libyan people," al-Keeb said after the 51 NTC members voted, with 26 backing him in a ballot in Tripoli.

"We salute and remember the revolutionaries who we will never forget. We will not forget their families," he said. "I say to them that the NTC did not and will not forget them and also the coming government will do the same," he added.

Al-Keeb did not set out any specific plans for Libya during the coming months, but said that worries over foreign oil contracts are unfounded.

"We understand that we had 42 years with a brutal dictator ... concerns are in order. But there should be none of them," he said. "We demand respect for our national rights."

The prime minister said he expected to choose his cabinet ministers within two weeks.

"We said we would (elect a cabinet) a month from the liberation. We have two weeks left and we intend to meet that deadline."

Unknown leader

An academic and a businessman who has spent much of his life outside Libya, al-Keeb is not well-known inside the country.

A spokesperson for the NTC told Reuters she did not immediately have any details on his background after he won the vote and joked that in Libya even a prime minister who nobody knows could be elected.

Al-Keeb has spent years in exile outside Libya and helped with the financing of the revolt against Gaddafi

NTC members said he is "quiet and friendly" and has spent time in the United States, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Al-Keeb received a doctorate in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University, they said.

Interim Oil Minister Ali Tarhouni was the favourite to win, but received only three votes, highlighting the unpredictable nature of emerging politics in the North African state.

The NTC has been criticised for internal divisions but al-Keeb said charges were unfounded.

"Within the NTC, what you see is democracy in practice. This is new for us in Libya. This is democracy in practice," he said.

Former interim prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, fulfilled a promise to resign after Libya was declared officially "liberated" after the capture of Gaddafi's hometown Sirte and his subsequent killing.