- Associated Press - Thursday, November 10, 2011

TRIPOLI, LIBYA Libya’s interim government is unlikely to award new oil concessions or make major economic decisions, saving those for an elected leadership, as it focuses instead on restoring security after the country’s eight-month civil war, the outgoing finance minister said Thursday.

The transitional government is being formed by Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib, who said Thursday that he needs up to two more weeks to complete the job.

Mr. el-Keib’s government would remain in place until June, the deadline for electing a 200-member national assembly that would choose a new prime minister.

Restarting oil production has been a major focus of Libya’s interim rulers. The industry was nearly paralyzed during the fighting that ended in late October, with the capture and death of dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

Ali Tarhouni, the outgoing finance and oil minister, said Libya now is producing about 570,000 barrels a day, compared with the daily pre-war output of 1.6 million barrels.

He said daily output could surpass 700,000 barrels by the end of the year, and that natural-gas exports via pipeline to Italy will resume in coming days.

The main challenge of the incoming government is to establish functioning security services, including an army and border guards, Mr. Tarhouni told reporters at his office.

Currently, semi-autonomous militias that had fought against Gadhafi still control key locations, including Tripoli’s main airport.

“I don’t anticipate that this transitional government will make major decisions” on the economy, Mr. Tarhouni said. “It’s [in power for] eight months, and most of these big infrastructure projects most likely will be delayed until you have a constitution, an elected government.

“I don’t expect, for example, that this transitional government will give new concessions for oil.”

An elected government will likely push to diversify the Libyan economy and strengthen the private sector, Mr. Tarhouni said. The old regime relied almost entirely on oil revenues, while private business was hampered by restrictions and corruption.

Mr. Tarhouni said tourism and financial services could become major sources of revenue in the future.