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Profile: Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 6:27 AM EDT, Thu October 10, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prime Minister Ali Zeidan is a former diplomat who has been in office for almost a year
  • In September, he denied reports that his government had tried to pay off militia groups
  • "We are trying to create a state, and we are not ashamed of that," he said

(CNN) -- Prime Minister Ali Zeidan already had a tough job in rebuilding Libya, a nation left in disarray following the ouster of former strongman leader Moammar Gadhafi two years ago and plagued by militia groups.

His kidnapping by armed men early Thursday -- and his release, without harm, hours later -- underlines the great challenges he faces.

Zeidan, a former diplomat, was picked to lead the government by Libya's elected General National Congress just shy of a year ago.

Since then, he has struggled to bring the country's rampant militias under central control and ensure security in the North African nation.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour in September, Zeidan rejected claims that his government had tried to pay off the militias to get their cooperation, calling such a move "immoral" and "inappropriate."

The Libyan government is trying to negotiate with the militias to "resolve the matter peacefully," he told Amanpour, but was prepared to use force if necessary.

"If it gets to a dead end, the state will act as a state and will impose and enforce the rule of law against those who violate it," Zeidan said. "Everything is possible. Everything that could bring things back to normal, with the least damage possible, we will do."

He also insisted that Libya "is not a failing state," but rather needs more time to establish itself.

"We are trying to create a state, and we are not ashamed of that," he said. "The outside world believes that Libya is failing, but Libya was destroyed by Gadhafi for 42 years and was destroyed by a full year of civil war. And that's why we are trying to rebuild it."

Born in Waddan, a Saharan desert town in central Libya, the embattled country's new prime minister was educated in India and served as a Libyan diplomat from 1975 to 1982, the official Libyan News Agency reported last year.

Zeidan left Gadhafi's government that year and joined the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, a prominent left-leaning opposition group. And in 1989, he became the official spokesman of the Libyan League for Human Rights.

With Gadhafi's ouster, Zeidan returned to assume roles in his native country, including as the National Transitional Council's envoy to France.

Addressing world leaders at the U.N General Assembly last month in New York, he stressed the progress his country has made in the face of great difficulties.

The new Libya, he said, "is forging ahead toward democracy, the rule of law and the achievement of development and prosperity despite the plethora of difficulties and obstacles we face as result of the heavy legacy left behind by the former regime."

He also urged Libya's neighbors to support its efforts toward democratization and the imposition of law and order, and called for international help to secure its borders.

CNN's Mick Krever and Saad Abedine contributed to this report.

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