Protesters delay vote on new Libyan Cabinet

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TRIPOLI — Libya’s new prime minister on Tuesday put forward a Cabinet for parliamentary approval, but protesters stormed the building during the session, forcing a postponement of the vote on the new government.

Around 100 protesters, a mix of bearded civilians and self-proclaimed rebels, broke into the hall during a session in which Ali Zidan, the new prime minister, was telling the National General Congress that he tried to strike a geographic balance among different regions and cities.

The protesters faced little resistance as they entered, and a local TV station showed video of the break-in before it went off air. The protesters had various complaints about the nominated ministers, including that some had connections to the ousted regime of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Interim President Mohammed al-Megarif talked to the protesters, and they left the hall. Then they returned, forcing the parliament to postpone the vote on the new Cabinet until Wednesday.

“Let Libyans know the atmosphere in which we operate,” al-Megarif said. “The least we can say about what happened is that it is pressure on the Congress members.” He said criticism of the Cabinet was welcomed but appealed for a peaceful expression of opinion.

“The Congress represents legitimacy in this country,” he said.

A year after the overthrow and death of Gadhafi, Libyans are seeking a broader distribution of political power among the country’s three main regions, after decades of domination and discrimination by the dictator’s highly centralized state based in the capital, Tripoli.

The new Cabinet faces the herculean task of reigning in a mushrooming number of armed groups, filled mostly with former rebel fighters who defeated Gadhafi’s forces during last year’s eight-month civil war. The government must also build state institutions such as the judiciary, police, military and others from scratch, and rebuild cities and towns demolished during the conflict.

Zidan, a former human rights lawyer chosen Oct. 14, is the second prime minister to be named by the 200-member parliament. Legislators dismissed his predecessor, Mustafa Abushaqur, after they said he had put forward unknown people for key Cabinet posts and proposed a government lacking diversity.

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