TRIPOLI, Libya – Libya's parliament on Wednesday approved the country's new Cabinet in a vote of confidence, the parliament spokesman said, but armed protesters cut the main road leading to the parliament, vowing not to leave until members of the ousted regime of dictator Moammar Gadhafi are excluded from political life.
Omar Humidan said five of the 27 ministers would be reconsidered after concerns were raised over their ties to the deposed regime.
That was not good enough for the protesters, who tried to storm the parliament building but were turned back by security forces firing in the air. Then they camped outside the convention center that houses the parliament sessions. The disruption was the second in as many days by protesters, some in pickup trucks mounted with machine guns and anti-aircraft pieces.
"The fruits of the revolution have been harvested by regime remnants," said Younis Mohammed. "We want all members of the old regime to be isolated," he added, referring to the National Integrity Agency tasked with filtering lists of officials from Gadhafi's regime. "It is not possible that those who fought on the fronts are now under control of the same people they were fighting against," he said.
The Wednesday vote approving the Cabinet was 105 in favor, nine against and 18 abstentions, after parliament's main political blocs gave their support to the new prime minister, Ali Zidan.
The new Cabinet faces the daunting task of imposing control over armed groups, mostly 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 and military from scratch, and rebuild cities and towns destroyed during the conflict.
Zidan said he tried to strike a geographical balance in the new Cabinet.
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.
Zidan said he had talks with Libya's largest political blocs in parliament, the Alliance of National Forces by western-minded and wartime Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril and the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm Justice and Construction Party, to ensure support for his Cabinet.
Zidan, a former human rights lawyer, 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.
The new Cabinet has two women, one as social affairs minister and the other as tourism minister. The key posts of defense minister and interior minister went to representatives of the eastern city of Benghazi, where the revolt against Gadhafi begin. Also, the Cabinet has three ministers from the western city of Misrata and one from Zawiya.
Protesters said they would hold an open-ended sit-in until Zidan presents a new Cabinet, with only "nationalist figures" and no remnants of the old regime.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement late Wednesday that France "expresses its support for the new government" and called for a "rapid re-establishment of security in Libya."
Fabius said Libya "can count on the support of France" and that France seeks an "ambitious and durable partnership" with Libya. Fabius said he will go to Tripoli "very soon" to show support for the new government. France was among the first Western countries to support Libya's revolution.
Associated Press writer Greg Keller contributed from Paris.