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Libya names new parliament chief

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ESAM MOHAMED | June 25, 2013 01:39 PM EST | AP

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TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyan lawmakers elected a new parliament chief on Tuesday, replacing the leader who stepped down to comply with a law that bans officials from the former regime from senior posts.

Nouri Abu Sahmein won 96 votes out of 184 lawmakers present during the General National Congress session. Most of Abu Sahmein's support came from a bloc led by Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Justice and Construction Party.

Abu Sahmein is the first member of the minority Berber sect to hold such a senior post as Berbers were among suppressed groups under deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Abu Sahmein is a member of a small political group called The Loyalty to Martyrs' Blood.

The new parliament chief defeated al-Sherif al-Wafi, who received 80 votes. His support came from the Alliance of National Forces, led by Mahmoud Jibril, prime minister during the civil war that toppled Gadhafi in 2011.

Former parliament chief Mohammed al-Megarif resigned nearly a month ago after lawmakers passed a law that bans officials who served under Gadhafi from senior posts. The law was seen by critics as too broad because along with regime stalwarts, it also targeted longtime anti-Gadhafi opposition leaders, like al-Megarif. Also, it was seen as depriving Libya of people with expertise and experience in government.

The passage of the law last month, under pressure from armed men who laid siege on state institutions and stormed government buildings, underscored challenges facing the new Libya as it struggles to build a unified army and police while reining in militias exercising power across the country.