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Libya's National Transitional Council has handed over power nearly a year after the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi's 40-year dictatorship. A new government, constitution and parliament are next for the fledgling democracy.
In a late-night ceremony Wednesday - in observance of Ramadan, when believers fast until dusk - the NTC's Mustafa Abdel Jalil passed control of the country to the oldest member of the country's new 200-seat legislative body, elected on July 7. Representatives of civil society groups and diplomatic missions in Libya, as well as NTC and government officials, attended the ceremony. The transitional council had run the country since Gadhafi was ousted last year.
"I hand over the constitutional prerogatives to the General National Congress (GNC), which from now on is the legitimate representative of the Libyan people," NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said. "We are folding a page of dictatorship and opening a new page in building the state of Libya," he told the assembly.
Shortly after the ceremony, fireworks lit the skies of Tripoli and the streets were packed with people and cars celebrating and chanting "Libya will always be a free and democratic country."
Assembly members had been converging on Tripoli since Sunday. They held an informal meeting on Monday and agreed on the need to select a head of the GNC and two deputy chiefs within a week, according to Salah Jawooda, an independent member from the eastern city of Benghazi.
However, no dates have been set for the formation of a new government, a panel to vote on the new constitution, or next year's election of a new parliament.
An estimated 1.6 million Libyans, of 2.8 million registered voters, cast their ballots to choose the assembly in the country's first comprehensive elections in more than four decades. The liberal-leaning Alliance of National Forces holds 39 of the 80 seats reserved for political parties. Where all of the 120 independent members stand remains unclear.
mkg/jm (Reuters, AFP, dpa)