Libya pledges constitution but Gadhafi role unclear

Libya pledges constitution but Gadhafi role unclear

Tripoli: Libya sought to showcase a reform-friendly face on Sunday, saying it was preparing a new constitution to promote a “Libyan version" of democracy.

Officials could not explain what role leader Moammar Gadhafi might assume in the new system and when it might be enforced.

Rebels fighting against Gadhafi for two months say their revolt is driven by a popular yearning for democratic change and free elections in the North African oil-exporting country, and accuse government troops of killing civilians.

Libya has no constitution and is ruled in line with a collection of Gadhafi’s ideas set out in a book he wrote in the 1970s -- an opaque political system denounced by the rebels bent on ousting him after 41 years of rule.

On Sunday, officials made a point of gathering foreign journalists after midnight to declare their commitment to a new constitution and broader political reforms.

“We hope it will be adopted very soon," said Khaled Kaim, a deputy foreign minister. “There are people who are not interested in political reform ... They want power and wealth and not the constitution."

Mohamed Zwai, head of the General People’s Congress, said the draft was ready and would be examined soon.

Officials could not explain what kind of political system the draft envisaged, and whether Gadhafi would be part of it.

“Libyan version" of governance

It was also unclear in what way the proposed new order would be different from Libya’s current mixture of Islamic, tribal and socialist rules that form the basis of its political system.

Asked to spell out whether it would be a presidential republic or another kind of system, constitutional panel member Ibrahim Moukhzam said it would be a “Libyan version".

“Constitutions are not designed to fit around individuals. They are designed to serve the nation and any citizen can find a place for them in this constitution," he said.

“Moammar Gadhafi as a Libyan individual can find his place in the constitution. The vast majority of people want him to stay. He is a symbol. He has many jobs and tasks."

Gadhafi has presented Libya as a victim of Western military aggression, saying his government has been working for years to bring political change. Rebels have dismissed the possibility of genuine reform under his rule and say Gadhafi must step down.

The Libyan government says it is being punished unfairly by Western powers who have sent warplanes to enforce a United Nations-mandated no fly zone over the vast desert country.

It denies its army is killing civilians or attacking rebels, saying soldiers use military force only in self-defence.

Yet on the ground, Libyan forces continue to fight for control of rebel-held cities such as Misrata and Ajdabiyah, where residents say many civilians have been killed or trapped in the fighting.

The Libyan leader’s son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, has led efforts to promote a new constitution and other reforms in past years as part of his drive to end Libya’s stand-off with West.

Critics have questioned Libya’s commitment to openness, saying its pro-reform rhetoric is not backed by actions in a country where the state tolerates no forms of dissent.