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Amid protests, Libya overwhelmingly approves cabinet

Libya's parliament has approved the country's new cabinet in a vote of confidence. Protesters disrupted the session for a second day in a row, complaining about the makeup of the cabinet.

The overall vote on Wednesday was 105 in favor, nine against and 18 abstaining. The spokesman for Libya's parliament said that five of the 27 ministers, picked from both liberals and Islamists, would be reconsidered after concerns were raised over their ties to the deposed regime of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Unlike Tuesday, when demonstrators broke into the chamber derailing a first attempt at a vote, security forces firing rifles in the air kept the protesters out of the building Wednesday.

Prime Minister Ali Zidan said he tried to strike a geographical balance in the new cabinet. Libyans are trying to reverse practices of the Gadhafi regime, including the marginalization of many cities.

Fewer factions

In a complicated system, Zidan had to have his cabinet approved in order to maintain his newly voted position as prime minister and unseat Abdel Rahim al-Kib, who had served an interim role since last year while Libya waited for a suitable government to form. Zidan's predecessor, Mustafa Abu Shagur, lost the job in a no-confidence vote when the assembly rejected his lineup as unrepresentative of Libya's numerous factions.

The new head of Libya's government said that he had decided to put independents in charge of key ministries such as foreign affairs, international cooperation, finance, justice, interior and defense. Assembly members can still put forward objections to individual cabinet nominees, and the suitability of several has already been called into question, assembly sources said.

The chief task of the new government is organizing fresh elections within 12 months on the basis of a new constitution, which has yet to be drafted.

mkg/mz (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)