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Islamist-backed liberal businessman named Libya PM

Ahmed Miitig, 42, becomes Libya's youngest and fifth prime minister since 2011 uprising
'I swear I will carry out my duties honestly and in devotion' (AA)

An Islamist-backed liberal businessman was named Libya's new prime minister Sunday. A graduate of Harvard University, Ahmed Miitig, 42, is a liberally-minded Libyan who enjoys support from Libya's main Islamist blocs. He invests heavily in his country's tourism and hotel sector.

Miitig is Libya's youngest and fifth prime minister since veteran dictator Moamer Gaddafi was toppled and killed in a 2011 uprising.

"I swear I will carry out my duties honestly and in devotion. Thank you for your confidence," Miitig told parliament.

Since then successive governments in the oil-rich North African country have struggled to impose order as heavily armed former rebel brigades have carved out their own fiefdoms and refused to join the security forces.

The job of prime minister has proven challenging and dangerous -- Ali Zeidan, who was voted out by parliament for failing to prevent a rebel oil shipment in March, had been kidnapped by gunmen last year and held for several hours before being released.

Last month Zeidan's defence minister Abdullah al-Thani was appointed to replace him, but stepped down after just five days, saying he and his family had come under attack.

State television broadcast chaotic footage from Sunday's session.

At first GNC vice president Ezzedin al-Awami said Miitig defeated university professor Omar al-Hassi by 73-43 votes but mustered only 113 of the 120 votes required for a vote of confidence.

But the second vice president, Salah al-Makhzoum, who ranks lower than Awami, later announced that the relatively unknown businessman had clinched 121 votes in the 185-seat interim parliament, apparently after a recount.

Some deputies denounced the recount, which they said took place after the session had officially closed.

"What is happening is illegal," said GNC spokesman Omar Hmidan.

The voting had been broadcast live on state television up until Awami closed the session, saying a new one would convene because Miitig had failed to win a vote of confidence.

But an hour later Makhzoum said Miitig had in fact won and called on him to take the oath.

Miitig -- who has vowed to rebuild state institutions, namely the army and police -- has two weeks to form a government.

But liberal lawmaker Sherif al-Wafi said he and other deputies "will take the necessary legal measures" to stop Miitig from heading the government, saying the second vote count was unconstitutional.

Deputy Fatima al-Majbari said Makhzoum's recount included "votes of lawmakers who were absent."

It was the second time in a week that the GNC met to decide between the two candidates who were initially among a group of seven hopefuls.

After an initial meeting last Sunday, parliament gathered again on Tuesday, when Miitig won 67 votes in a first round with Hassi in second place with 34 votes.

A second round of voting on Tuesday was interrupted by gunmen who stormed into parliament for reasons that are still unclear, shooting and forcing deputies to evacuate the premises.

The GNC was elected in July 2012 for an 18-month term, but in February it extended its mandate to December, sparking widespread protests.

Parliament's Islamist supporters were in favour of the extension while the liberal National Forces Alliance slammed the move.

The political turmoil comes as militants have carried out near-daily attacks on security forces, particularly in the restive eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the uprising that ended Gaddafi's four-decade rule.

Some of the most formidable rebels hail from Misrata, Libya's third largest city and Miitig's hometown, which saw some of the worst fighting of the NATO-backed uprising.