Mustafa Ben Halim

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Mustafa Ben Halim
مصطفى أحمد بن حليم
Mustafa Ben Halim.jpg
Prime Minister of Libya
In office
12 April 1954 – 25 May 1957
Preceded byMuhammad Sakizli
Succeeded byAbdul Majid Kubar
Foreign Minister of Libya
In office
3 December 1954 – 30 October 1956
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded byAbdul Salam al-Buseiri
Succeeded byAli Sahli
Transport Minister of Libya
In office
18 February 1954 – 19 December 1954
Prime MinisterMuhammad Sakizli
Preceded byIbrahim ben Shaaban
Succeeded byAli Sahli
Personal details
Born (1921-01-29) 29 January 1921 (age 98)
Alexandria, Egypt

Mustafa Ahmed Ben Halim (Arabic: مصطفى احمد بن حليم‎; born 29 January 1921)[1] is a Libyan politician and businessman who served in a number of leadership positions in the Kingdom of Libya from 1953 to 1960. Ben Halim was the Prime Minister of Libya from 12 April 1954 to 25 May 1957. Through his political and private sector work, Ben Halim supported the development of the modern Libyan state.[2]

Early life[edit]

Ben Halim was born in exile in Alexandria, Egypt on 29 January 1921[3] where his Cyrenaican father sought refuge from the Italian occupation of Libya. He graduated with a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the Egyptian University of Alexandria in 1943.

The Libya Years[edit]

Ben Halim returned to Libya in 1950 to help with the reconstruction of the country following the Second World War and subsequent Allied occupation of Libya. He was appointed Minister of Public Works in Libya's first government in 1953. At the age of 33, he was appointed Prime Minister in 1954, a position he held until 1957. During his time as Prime Minister, Ben Halim supported the growth and development of modern-day Libya. He helped draft Libya's petroleum laws which ultimately led to the discovery of oil in 1959. Under his leadership, the Libyan oil sector was divided into a smaller number of concessions to support competition in the Libyan oil sector. Ben Halim also founded the University of Libya and the Central Bank of Libya.

As Prime Minister, Ben Halim prioritized building relationships and alliances with the West, notably Britain, the United States and France. Due to these relationships, Ben Halim was able to secure aid for Libya from Britain and the United States at a time of heightened Cold War tensions.[4] During his time as Prime Minister, Ben Halim established a positive diplomatic relationship with the Soviet Union which ultimately led to Libya’s recognition at the United Nations which had been previously blocked by the USSR. In addition, Ben Halim collaborated closely with other Arab nations and neighboring countries, strengthening Libya’s geopolitical position. In 1957, Ben Halim resigned as Prime Minister due to a lack of commitment from King Idris to move Libya towards a more open democracy. Despite these differences, Ben Halim and King Idris remained close over the coming years.

From 1957–1958, Ben Halim served as the Private Councillor to the King of Libya. He was later appointed Libyan Ambassador to France from 1958 to 1960 during which time he helped negotiate the French/Algerian truce between the FLN and the French Government[5]

Ben Halim returned to Tripoli and left public service in 1960 to start his own construction business. He set up the Libyan Company for Engineering and Construction (Libeco) with the US company Brown and Root, and then expanded to form a partnership with Bechtel. He further diversified his interests with other ventures in manufacturing and natural resources, including setting up the Libyan Company for Soap and Chemicals and the Libyan Gas Company which supplied all of Libya’s needs in nitrogen and oxygen. He diversified further into financials by co-founding the Bank of North Africa, a Libyan bank formed out of a joint venture with Morgan Guaranty and the British Bank of the Middle East (BBME) of which he became Chairman of the Board.

Between 1964 and 1968, Ben Halim served as an informal advisor to King Idris on institutional reforms which were proposed during his term as Prime Minister. Due to ongoing political pressure from special interest groups, the reforms were not fully implemented. In 1969, Ben Halim was on a family holiday in Switzerland when Muammar Gaddafi staged the coup. After Gaddafi took power, Ben Halim was unable to return to Libya.[6] Over the next 15 years, Ben Halim was tried in absentia by the “People’s Tribunal” for allegedly “corrupting political life”. Ben Halim was also wrongly[citation needed] accused of rigging the 1956 elections by the same committee.

Life In Exile and return[edit]

Unable to return to Libya, Ben Halim briefly settled in London where he and his family were granted political asylum. He then moved to Beirut, Lebanon in 1970 to pursue new business ventures, including helping Consolidated Contractors Company negotiate sub-contracting agreements with Bechtel Corporation, one of the largest civil engineering firms in the world.[7] A failed kidnapping attempt by mercenaries hired by Gaddafi forced him to relocate the family to London in 1973. In the years that followed, there were several assassination attempts made on Ben Halim’s life which were foiled by British Intelligence[8]

Ben Halim was granted Saudi nationality in 1975, six years after King Faisal of Saudi Arabia granted the Ben Halim family passports to allow them to travel and conduct business in Lebanon and the United Kingdom. In 1980, he was appointed Personal Councilor to then Crown Prince Fahd bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. Ben Halim is the last surviving of the Kingdom of Libya's premiers, and the only one of them who witnessed the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. After the fall of Gaddafi, Ben Halim returned to Libya after 42 years in exile. His homecoming was warmly received by the Libyan people. His house in Tripoli, which in 1969 was left in the custody of a sentry, was seized by the sentry who then claimed ownership of the property.[9]


Ben Halim is married to Yusra Kanaan. They have six children.

  • Ben Halim's eldest son, Amr Ben Halim, is Founder and Board Member of Al Yusr Industrial Contracting Company.[10] He also founded the Forum for Democratic Libya after the revolution in February 2011 to promote and advocate a culture of democracy. He has also supported other civil society organisations which aim to have a positive impact in post revolution Libya.
  • Hany Ben Halim is a real estate developer and investor
  • Tarek Mustafa Ben Halim, founded Alfanar, the Arab region's first venture philanthropy organisation, in 2004, after a career in investment banking. Tarek went back to Libya in 2005/6 to support Saif al-Islam Gaddafi in his attempts to bring about political reform. Tarek then resigned in 2008, as he was disenchanted with the lack of true intent to reform, and died in December 2009.
  • Ahmed Ben Halim co-founded The Capital Partnership, an investment management firm, in 1998 following a career in banking and investment industries. He is also the founder and Chairman of Libya Holdings Group, an investment company focused on the development of Libya’s energy, infrastructure and financial sectors.[11][12]
  • Abir Challah née Abir Ben Halim
  • Sherine Ben Halim Jafar[13] is an author. Her book “Under the Copper Covers”, a culinary journey through North Africa and Middle East was published in 2015 by Rimal Publications


  • Libya: The Years of Hope - The Memoirs of Mustafa Ahmed Ben-Halim - Former Prime Minister of Libya, ISBN 0-9532961-0-5
  • "Libya's Hidden Pages of History: A Memoir - صفحات مطوية من تاريخ ليبيا السياسي" Rimal Publications, 2011 (Arabic Edition) ISBN 9789963610761
  • "Libya's Hidden Pages of History: A Memoir" Rimal Publications, 2013 (English Edition)
  • Dictionary of Modern Arab History, an A-Z of over 2,000 entries from 1798 to the Present Day, by Robin Leonard Bidwell


  1. ^ Biography of Mustafa Ben Halim (in Arabic)
  2. ^ Ronald Bruce St. John (2002). Libya and the United States: two centuries of strife. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 206. ISBN 978-0-8122-3672-9.
  3. ^مصطفى-احمد-بن-حليم/books
  4. ^ "Libya's Oldest Statesman |". Retrieved 2016-06-04.
  5. ^ Ben-Halim, Mustafa Ahmad (1998-05-01). Libya: The Years of Hope - The Memoirs of Mustafa Ahmed Ben-Halim - Former Prime Minister of Libya (New e. ed.). London: AAS Media Publishers. ISBN 9780953296118.
  6. ^ "Tarek Mostafa Ben Halim: talented financier who cared deeply for Middle East | The National". Retrieved 2016-06-04.
  7. ^ (PDF) Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ "Libya - The Years of Hope, Mustafa Ben-Halim |". Retrieved 2016-06-04.
  9. ^ "Libya's Oldest Statesman |". Retrieved 2016-06-04.
  10. ^ "Amr Ben Halim: Executive Profile & Biography - Businessweek". Retrieved 2016-05-09.
  11. ^ "Tremendous opportunities in Libya". CNBC. Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  12. ^ "Libya Holdings | Investment & Partnership". Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  13. ^ "Sherine Ben Halim Jafar's cookbook stirs up memories of life in exile while celebrating Middle Eastern cuisine | The National". Retrieved 2016-05-19.

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