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Libya interior minister and only presidential aspirant rallies support

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MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP or licensors


Former interior minister Fathi Bashagha, the only Libyan so far to publicly announce a run for president in polls due on December 24, has put "security and economic reform" at the heart of his pitch.

The polls will end a year that started badly for the 59-year-old.

In February, he was narrowly beaten in elections to the post of inte rim prime minister as part of UN-led peace efforts.

That same month, he survived what aides called a "well-planned" assassination attempt -- a hail of bullets fired at his convoy on a highway near Tripoli.

But Bashagha, a heavyweight in Libyan politics and champion of efforts to integrate the North African country's many militias into the state, is not backing down.

He wants to get Libya back on its feet by reviving the crisis-hit economy, he told AFP in an interview in his garden in the Tripoli suburbs.

"Security goes hand in hand with economic reform," he said.

"There needs to be an urgent plan for economic reform and to strengthen the dinar against the dollar, and the private sector needs to be encouraged."

The December polls are part of United Nations-led efforts to turn the page on a decade of violence in the North African country, just over a year after a landmark ceasefire between eastern and western camps.

A unity government took office in March with a mandate to lead Libya to presidential and parliamentary polls, a process overshadowed by disputes over the legal basis for the votes following years of division and collapse of the state.

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