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Slow pace of reform frustrates Gaddafi's son


Tripoli - Veteran Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son and heir apparent Seif al-Islam has announced his withdrawal from politics in what analysts said was a sign of his frustration with the slow pace of the reforms he has championed.

"I have decided no longer to intervene in state affairs," the 36-year-old told thousands of young supporters in the town of Sebha 800 kilometres south of the capital Tripoli late on Wednesday.

Seif al-Islam said he had been "obliged to intervene" in politics in the past despite his lack of any official position because of the lack of political institutions and a civil service but said he now saw no need to carry on.

"It's true that I have intervened in all fields, in foreign affairs and in domestic Libyan matters like development, housing, urban planning and so on," he said.

He cited the settlement of the claims of the families of the 270 dead in the 1988 bombing of a US airliner about Lockerbie Scotland and the release in 2007 of six Bulgarian medics held for more than eight years on widely criticised charges of infecting children with the Aids virus.

"I have achieved my programme," he said.

"The train is currently on the rails."

"I have no more big battles to fight and my position is becoming embarrassing," Seif al-Islam said.

"The situation has changed. If I carry on, there will be a problem."

In a series of speeches in August 2007 in the run-up to the regime's 38th anniversary, Seif al-Islam set out a series of proposed changes to the state-led system of people's committees that has held sway since the 1970s.

They included a major privatisation campaign, an €80-billion investment programme, and a new constitution that would protect independent media as a bulwark against corruption.

Mahmud Boussifi, the editor of the independent Oya and Qurina newspapers set up at Seif al-Islam's initiative, said he felt the announcement by Kadhafi's son was a sign of his "frustration with the Libyan bureaucracy which has slowed down the pace of his reforms."

"He is young and was hoping rapidly to make major progress but he ran into bureaucratic obstacles that he had not expected," Boussifi said.

Another Libyan analyst said he felt Seif al-Islam's announcement would have no long-term impact on the succession to the veteran Kadhafi, who has been in power since 1969.

"I think that this is only a short-term withdrawal that will pave the way for a new phase aimed at recasting his role in public life and giving it a legitimacy grounded in civil society," he said, asking not be identified.

Seif al-Islam insisted the reforms he had championed had never been in conflict with the "people power" ideology his father had set out in his "Green Book" and which led to the country being renamed the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah.

He said his proposals for a new de facto constitution would protect Kadhafi's political thinking and reiterated that any questioning of his father's role remained a "red line".

He said the proposed "social contract" would contain a "special Moamer Kadhafi law" stipulating that the powers and prerogatives of the "guide", as Kadhafi is styled, were "could neither be passed on nor inherited."

Seif al-Islam hit out at the "sea of dictatorships" across the Middle East and North Africa in which "parliaments are mere shams" and leaders routinely trample on constitutions and said he hoped Libya could provide an alternative model for the region. - Sapa-AFP


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