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Libyan leader seeks to calm West on Sharia fears

By Kim Gamel

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 24 2011 5:55 p.m. MDT

Libyan Transitional National Council chairman Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, left, looks on, as Ali Tarhouni, Libyan National Transitional Council's minister for Oil and Finance, right, delivers a press conference for Libyan veterans in Benghazi, Libya, Monday Oct. 24, 2011.

Francois Mori, Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya — After giving a speech that emphasized the Islamization of Libya, the head of the transitional government on Monday tried to reassure the Western powers who helped topple Moammar Gadhafi that the country's new leaders are moderate Muslims.

Just as in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, Islamists have emerged from yet another Arab Spring uprising as the most powerful group in the country. How far they will go will be decided at the ballot box — in Tunisia this week, in Egypt in November and in Libya within eight months.

National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil said Sunday that Islamic Sharia law would be the main source of legislation, that laws contradicting its tenets would be nullified, and that polygamy would be legalized.

"I would like to assure the international community that we as Libyans are moderate Muslims," said Abdul-Jalil, who added that he was dismayed by the focus abroad on his comments Sunday on polygamy.

The stir created by Abdul-Jalil's address in Benghazi, the eastern Libyan city where the anti-Gadhafi uprising was born in mid-February, came as international pressure mounted on him to investigate the circumstances of Gadhafi's death.

Abdul-Jalil ordered an inquiry to establish whether the deposed Libyan leader was killed in an execution-style slaying after being captured alive Thursday by fighters in his hometown of Sirte or whether he died in the crossfire as government officials have suggested.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated U.S. support for a full investigation but said "it's now time for Libya to move on." She endorsed the NTC's proposed timeline for next steps in the democratic transition, and said Libyans "with no blood on their hands" must be ensured "they have a place in the new Libya, and that they are safe and they are included."

Asked about Human Rights Watch's claims of dozens of Gadhafi supporters found dead with bullet wounds in the back of the head and their hands tied, Nuland called the report "extremely disturbing." She said U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz raised Washington's concerns with the council and asked them to conduct another investigation.

Washington wants "no reprisals, no vigilante justice," she said, calling for the rule of law and transparency to prevail with all "those who need to be dealt with."

Gadhafi's body has been on public display since Friday in a commercial refrigerator in the port city of Misrata, where residents have been lining up to see it.

Several videos have emerged showing Gadhafi was alive when he was captured and taunted and beaten by revolutionary fighters in Sirte. The Boston-based international news site GlobalPost posted a video showing Gadhafi's captors ramming a stick into his buttocks through his pants.

Ibrahim Beit al-Mal, a spokesman for the fighters, said he expected that the bodies of Gadhafi, his slain son Muatassim and former Defense Minister Abu Bakr Younis will be buried Tuesday in an unmarked grave in a secret location.

That could not be confirmed, and Abdul-Jalil said earlier that the transitional government has established a committee to determine what to do with Gadhafi's body, adding that the decision will be governed by a religious edict by the head of the Islamic Fatwa society.

Guma al-Gamaty, a London-based spokesman for the National Transitional Council, said Abdul-Jalil had an obligation at the dawn of a new era to assure Libyans that Islam will be respected.

"This doesn't mean that Libya will become a theocracy. There is no chance of that whatsoever. Libya will be a civic state, a democratic state and, in principle, its laws will not contradict democracy," he said.

It is the kind of assurance Western powers that supported the anti-Gadhafi fighters with airstrikes and diplomatic backing may have been looking for.

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