Saturday, April 4, 2009

Libya reshuffles cabinet

Libya's General People's Congress named Moussa Koussa, head of the country's external intelligence service, as foreign minister on 4 March.

Libya's main ruling assembly on Wednesday appointed intelligence chief Moussa Koussa, the country's most influential official after leader Muammar Gaddafi, as foreign minister in a reshuffle.

Koussa was an important figure in combating dissidents based abroad and in a confrontation with the West that lasted almost three decades. He replaces Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Shalgam, according to an official statement.

The General People Congress (GPC), the equivalent of a parliament, kept Ali Al-Mahmoudi as prime minister. Other positions were scrapped or merged to trim bureaucracy.

Abdulhafid Zlitni, who held the economic planning portfolio, becomes planning and finance minister. He also is chairman of the Libyan Investment Authority, which manages the Opec member's sovereign wealth fund of $69-billion.

Mohammed Ali al-Houeij, finance minister in the government line-up, was named minister of industries, economy and trade. Koussa has spent his career in the shadows in foreign intelligence for most of Gaddafi's 40-year-old rule. He warded off several attempts by dissidents, most of them based abroad, to try to topple or assassinate Gaddafi.

He played a key role in ending Libya's ostracism by working on British and US intelligence services to convince London and Washington that Tripoli wanted to normalise relations.

His efforts encouraged Gaddafi to pledge to scrap Libya's mass destruction weapons programmes in 2003, a decision which resulted in improved links with Western countries.