x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

New Libyan foreign minister named

Libyan strongman and long-time secret service chief Mussa Kussa was named foreign minister in a ministerial reshuffle.

Libyan strongman and long-time secret service chief Mussa Kussa was named foreign minister in a ministerial reshuffle announced by parliament yesterday. The reshuffle comes as Libya is preparing to unveil a draft constitution four decades after its veteran leader Muammer Qadafi scrapped the country's law code when he seized power. Mr Kussa, 59, replaces Abdel Rahman Shalgham who held the post for eight years and will now represent Libya at the UN Security Council.

The changes affected six ministers of the 15 ministerial posts in the government of the prime minister Baghdadi Mahmudi, who held on to his position. The new cabinet list saw three newcomers at the telecommunications, health and education ministries while several others were abolished or absorbed into other ministries. The major change was the appointment of Mr Kussa, a loyal servant to Mr Qadafi who has been the head of the north African state's secret service for 15 years.

He has been involved in all the negotiations and policy shifts that have seen the one-time pariah state return to the international fold. After starting his career as a security specialist for Libyan embassies in Europe, Mr Kussa became ambassador to London in 1980 ? but was kicked out that year for declaring his determination to liquidate "enemies of the revolution" on British soil. A strongman on the Libyan revolutionary committee which forms the backbone of Mr Qadafi's regime, Mr Kussa has been in charge of major foreign policy affairs such as Africa and Libya's relations with the West.

In particular, he played a key role in reaching deals to compensate the victims of the Lockberbie bombing in 1988 and bombing of a French airliner the following year, removing one of the biggest obstacles to building bridges with the West. Mr Kussa was also instrumental in Mr Qadafi's dramatic decision to abandon weapons of mass destruction programmes which led to the lifting of long-standing international sanctions.

More recently, he was also a key negotiator in the case of the Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who were on death row in Libya accused of deliberately infecting hundreds of children with HIV, but were freed in July 2007. After serving as deputy foreign minister from 1992 to 1994, Mr Kussa was subsequently named to head the intelligence agency, a post he occupied until this day. * AFP