TRIPOLI, Libya – Libya's transitional leaders named a new Cabinet Monday and said they would step down after the country is fully secured, putting an end to weeks of political infighting as the North African nation struggles to get back on its feet.
The head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, and de facto prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, made the announcement in a joint news conference in the former rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
Revolutionary forces are still battling loyalists of ousted dictator Muammar Qaddafi on two major fronts as well as pockets deep in the southern desert. But Abdul-Jalil said liberation will be declared after Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte is captured because that would ensure the borders are secure. He also promised to name a new transitional government within a month after liberation is declared.
"We have signed a pledge ... that we will not take part in any future government in any way," Abdul-Jalil said.
The NTC has promised to hold elections eight months after the end of fighting. The definition of victory as the capture of the Mediterranean coastal city of Sirte is a tacit acknowledgment that the fierce resistance in the town of Bani Walid is likely to continue.
But Abdul-Jalil noted that Bani Walid is landlocked and doesn't pose a threat to Libya's borders.
"We ask Libyans to understand that this is a sensitive and critical stage," he told reporters.
After weeks of wrangling, the new Cabinet lineup did not contain many changes. Jibril remains in his position but also takes over as foreign minister, meaning his current deputy and foreign minister Ali al-Issawi is out. Ali al-Tarhouni, a U.S.-educated economist, will continue acting as oil minister until the National Oil Company is ready to take over.
A new minister for Libyans killed and wounded was named. He is Abdel-Rahman al-Keissah, described as a lawyer who was wounded in the fighting. Hamza Abu Fas will replace Sheik Salem al-Sheiki as the minister of religious affairs.
When asked if members of the Cabinet might remain in their posts after liberation, Jibril said that would be up to the future leadership and would depend on their performance.
NATO, meanwhile, urged Libya's new government to ensure the security of arms caches left behind by Qaddafi's regime.
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday it's "a matter of concern if stockpiles of weapons are not properly controlled and monitored."
He was answering questions about reports that thousands of SAM-7 portable surface-to-air missiles allegedly went missing after Qaddafi's army collapsed amid a rebel offensive supported by NATO air strikes.
The United States and other Western nations are trying to reduce the global stock of such missiles, fearing they could fall into the hands of terrorists. The small, easily concealable SAM-7s are considered obsolete by modern military standards but could pose a threat to civil airliners.