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Libyan handover set, ICRC withdraws staff

Conflict continues across the country leading the Red Cross to halt its work over safety fears. This comes as the country prepares for the recently-elected congress to replace the interim council.

Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) said early on Monday that it would officially hand power to elected officials on Wednesday.

"We affirm that August 8, 2012 will be the day that power will be transferred peacefully," NTC spokesman Saleh Darhoub told reporters in the capital.

Libyans voted on July 7, with final results following a little over a week after the ballot. The NTC had ruled the country since the ouster of strongman Moammar Gadhafi last October.

Voters chose 200 representatives, 120 of them independents and the rest from organized parties, to form a temporary government charged with establishing a constitution and then organizing fresh elections - tentatively scheduled for 2013.

Tricky transition, ICRC withdrawal

The handover to a freely-elected government will come amid continued violence in Libya. Darhoub announced that security forces had thwarted three men planning bomb attacks on the capital Tripoli in a sting late on Sunday.

In the western city of Misrata on Sunday, assailants attacked a residence being used by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with "various kinds of heavy weaponry."

The humanitarian organization said in a statement that it would suspend its work in Misrata and Bengahzi - the two rebel strongholds during the conflict with Gadhafi's military - saying it was the fifth time in three months that its employees had come under attack.

"We are appalled by this latest act and by the deliberate targeting of our staff: they have put their lives at risk to serve the Libyan people both during and after the conflict," the ICRC delegation head in Libya, Ishfaq Muhamed Khan, said. "Given the circumstances, we are forced to announce, with considerable regret, that we will be suspending all our activities in Misrata and Benghazi and that our delegates in those cities will be temporarily relocated." The staff has been relocated to Tripoli.

Khan said Sunday's attack, in particular, "could have had very grave consequences for our colleagues."

The NTC said in Tripoli that it condemned the attacks as "a government and a people," acknowledging the ICRC's humanitarian contributions even during the siege of Misrata by the Gadhafi military.

msh/rg (AFP, Reuters)