Rebel and government negotiators Thursday picked Monrovian businessman Gyude Bryant to head Liberia's new transitional government. The selection of Mr. Bryant follows the signing of a peace accord Monday.

The choice of Gyude Bryant for the top job in overseeing Liberia's return to peace after 14 years of civil war comes as something of a surprise.

Mr. Bryant is not well known in political circles and had not been considered as the front-runner for the post. He beat other short-listed candidates, including former United Nations official Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Rudolph Sherman, who is widely seen as sympathetic to ex-president Charles Taylor.

Commentators in Liberia had been expecting Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to be selected because of her experience working for the U.N. and high profile in the international community.

Gyude Bryant, a 54-years-old heavy equipment dealer, is a leading member of the Episcopal Church, which is very popular in Liberia. He also heads a small political party called the Liberia Action Party. Mr. Bryant's deputy will be accounting lecturer, Wesley Johnson.

Mr. Bryant's difficult task will be to oversee the disarmament of the heavily armed population and to stage national elections in two years time.

The interim president, Moses Blah, is due to step down from office in mid-October. Mr. Blah is serving out the remainder of Charles Taylor's term in office after he was forced into exile under intense international pressure and a mounting rebel insurgency.

Under the power-sharing deal brokered between the government and rebel forces, the transitional leader could not come from any of the armed parties in Liberia.

The announcement officially closes peace talks that have been running in Accra for 78 days, at the expense of the Ghanaian government.