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Eastern Libya declares semiautonomous region

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[March 06, 2012]  BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) -- Tribal leaders and militia commanders declared a semiautonomous region in oil-rich eastern Libya on Tuesday, a move opponents fear will be the first step toward outright dividing the country six months after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi.

Libya's National Transitional Council, the interim central government based in the capital Tripoli, has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the creation of a partly autonomous eastern region, warning it could eventually lead to the breakup of the North African nation.

Thousands of representatives of major tribal leaders, militia commanders and politicians made the declaration in a ceremony held in the eastern city of Benghazi.

They vowed to end decades of marginalization under Gadhafi and named a council to run the affairs of the newly created region, extending from the central coastal city of Sirte to the Egyptian border in the east.

The gathering appointed Ahmed al-Zubair, Libya's longest serving political prisoner under Gadhafi, as leader of its governing council. Al-Zubair is also a member of the National Transitional Council.

Al-Zubair pledged to protect the rights of the region but also said his council recognizes NTC to run Libya's international affairs.

The gathering also rejected an election law which allocated 60 seats for the eastern region out of 200-member assembly set to be elected in June.

[Associated Press; By RAMI AL-SHAHEIBI]

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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