Libya's Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib in profile

Libya's Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib (31 October 2011)

Born in Tripoli, Libya's new interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib spent much of his life abroad, working as an academic in the US and the United Arab Emirates.

The National Transitional Council (NTC) elected him to the post on 31 October, with 26 of its 51 members voting for him.

Analysts say Mr Keib's narrow victory over eight other candidates shows the deep divisions in the NTC - a coalition of rival factions that came together to overthrow ex-leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed in his birthplace, Sirte, on 20 October.

Mr Keib succeeds Mahmoud Jibril, who lived up to the pledge he made during the bloody uprising that he would step down once Col Gaddafi's 42-year rule ended.

"We guarantee that we are after a nation that respects human rights, and does not permit abuse of human rights," Mr Keib said, after his victory.

"But we need time," he added, seemingly trying to lower the expectations of Libyans and human rights groups concerned about the atrocities committed by NTC fighters.

Mr Keib never served in Col Gaddafi's regime, unlike Mr Jibril - who was an economic adviser in the toppled regime - and NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil, a former justice minister who defected after the uprising started in February.

With many Libyans demanding a clean break with the former regime, this could count in Mr Keib's favour as he steers Libya towards its first ever democratic elections, scheduled for next year, analysts say.

'Funded rebellion'

On the negative side, many Libyans could come to resent Mr Keib - a wealthy businessman and a professor in electrical engineering - for leading a comfortable life in exile while they suffered under Col Gaddafi's rule.

The issue tends to surface in many countries after repressive regimes are overthrown, as former exiles - initially welcomed as political messiahs - battle to improve living conditions, analysts say.

Image caption The final battle for control of Libya was fought in the city of Sirte

Mr Keib worked as an academic at the University of Alabama in the US and the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, where he chaired the electrical engineering department.

His biography, posted on the institute's website, says he obtained his first degree from the University of Tripoli in 1973, followed by a masters from the University of Southern California in 1976 and a doctorate from North Carolina State University in 1984.

His allies say he was in Tripoli during the uprising and he commands far more respect in the capital than Mr Jalil, who political base is in the second city, Benghazi.

Mr Keib played a significant role in financing and organising the underground rebellion in Tripoli, Libya's February 17th youth movement reports on its website.

"[He] knows what is happening on the ground," Tripoli-based NTC member Mohammed al-Harizi told the AP news agency.

"He has been around long enough to know what needs to be improved."

Mr Keib's first task will be to appoint a government in the next two weeks.

This will require the new prime minister - a technocrat - to show the skills of a consummate political operator who can satisfy the ambitions of rival faction leaders eager to secure top jobs in the post-Gaddafi Libya, and of citizens who will expect their cities and towns to be rebuilt after the devastation caused by the now-ended conflict.

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