Tripoli: Libya's National Transitional Council has handed power to a new assembly in a symbolic move marking a peaceful transition following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi's 40-year dictatorship.
"I hand over the constitutional prerogatives to the General National Congress, which from now on is the legitimate representative of the Libyan people," NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Wednesday.
He passed the reins to the oldest member of the 200-seat legislative assembly elected on July 7 at a ceremony that was scheduled late in the day because of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month when believers fast until dusk.
A conference room was arranged in an upscale hotel in the Libyan capital as a makeshift venue for the assembly, which is due to begin its work a week from now, according to the official LANA news agency.
The authorities put in place tight security measures for the ceremony, in view of the ongoing violence in Benghazi and in the capital, where a car exploded during a marketplace gunbattle on Saturday.
The interior ministry said it cordoned off the hotel and that "all the roads near or leading to the conference will be closed" until early Thursday.
Representatives of civil society groups and diplomatic missions in Libya, as well as NTC and government officials, attended the ceremony.
The General National Congress, the outcome of last month's ballot, will be tasked with choosing a new interim government to take over from the NTC, and will steer the country until fresh elections can be held, based on a new constitution to be drafted by a constituent authority of 60 members.
Assembly members, who had been converging on Tripoli since Sunday, 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.
A committee will also be chosen to write its internal procedural rules.
Libyans elected a legislative assembly of party and independent representatives last month, in their first free vote since a popular uprising last year escalated into a civil war that ousted the now-slain dictator.
Of the 200 assembly members, the lion's share of seats has been set aside for individual candidates whose loyalties and ideologies remain unclear but who are being wooed by various blocs.