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Libya's constitution-drafting body holds first meeting

The Libyan body charged with drawing up new constitution met on Monday in eastern Al-Baida province, with 13 out of 60 panel members absent
Libyan security forces keep watch in a ceremony organised by the body charged with drawing up a new constitution (AFP)

Libya's constituent assembly launched its work Monday in Al-Baida in the country's east.

Dozens of officials, tribal chiefs and civil society representatives took part in the ceremony amid tightened security measures - violence has been rife in the region since the 2011 revolt that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi.

Panel member Mohamed Al-Tomi told Anadolu Agency that, at Monday's first session, members would develop basic rules for regulating the panel's work.

The panel is tasked with drafting a new constitution within 18 months of its first meeting.

A new constitution has been billed as a milestone in the North African country's transition from the 42-year dictatorship of Gaddafi, who was overthrown and killed in 2011.

But 13 of the 60 assembly seats remain vacant, after unrest in certain areas stopped voting in a February 20 election to choose the body. A date for a new poll has yet to be set.

Absent from Monday's first meeting will be 13 panel members who have not yet been elected, due either to a boycott of the panel by certain segments of Libyan society or because of recent security turbulence.   

The Berber and Tuareg people, for example, two Libyan nomadic minorities, boycotted February 20 panel elections, accusing Libya's interim parliament of failing to enact legislation safeguarding their cultural rights.

Libya's Berbers said that they will maintain their boycott of the elections and the constitution-drafting panel as long as article 30 of the constitutional declaration does not clearly recognise these rights.

"A recent amendment of the article does not satisfy the minimum hopes of the Berbers," Ibrahim Makhlouf, the head of Libya's Supreme Berbers Council, told Anadolu Agency.

Assembly spokesman Naji al-Harbi said the remaining 47 members attended Monday's ceremony and held their first talks to elect a president and discuss rules of procedure.

The body, is based in the eastern town as it was for the 1951 charter that Gaddafi abolished in 1977. A special hall has been built in Al-Baida in which panel members will conduct their meetings.

Eastern Libya was the cradle of the NATO-backed 2011 revolt.

The country is awash with weapons from the conflict, and authorities have struggled to establish security by integrating anti-Kadhafi militias into the regular army or police force.