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Libya in transition: National assembly picks Gadhafi foe Magarief as president

Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images

Members of the Libya national assembly cast their votes Thursday in Tripoli to choose their president.

TRIPOLI -- Libya's ruling national assembly picked Mohammed Magarief, leader of the National Front party, as its president on Thursday in a vote carried out a day after it took power from the outgoing National Transitional Council.

Magarief, a long-time opponent of ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi, will head the 200-member congress, which will name a prime minister, pass laws and steer Libya to full parliamentary elections after a new constitution is drafted next year.

People in Libya are casting their ballots to elect a new Parliament with preliminary results expected to be announced Sunday. NBC's Martin Fletcher reports.

His National Front party, which won three seats in the July 7 vote for the national assembly, is an offshoot of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, an opposition movement to Gadhafi established in 1981.

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The vote counting was carried out in front of reporters and was televised live. Magarief won 113 votes versus independent Ali Zidan who secured 85 votes.

The national assembly, elected in July, began life on Wednesday following a late-night handover ceremony, the first peaceful transition of power in Libya's modern history.

Transition council Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil symbolically passed on the reins to the oldest member of the new 200-member assembly, Mohammed Ali Salim.

"The National Transitional Council hands over the constitutional duties for leading the state to the general national congress, which from now on is the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people," Jalil said to loud cheers.

In a speech, Jalil, who announced he would retire after ending his NTC chief post, acknowledged "mistakes" had been made during an "extraordinary" transitional period and said security and disarmament issues had not been resolved in time.

Large crowds gathered in Tripoli's Martyrs Square to celebrate the handover as fireworks lit up the sky.

Gadhafi, Libya's dictator for 42 years until he was ousted in an uprising-turned-civil war, was killed Oct. 20, 2011, as revolutionary fighters overwhelmed his hometown of Sirte and captured the last major bastion of resistance two months after his regime fell.

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Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS

An uprising in Libya ousts dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

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