TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — For the first time in more than four decades, Libyans on Saturday celebrated the 60th anniversary of the country’s independence from Italy and France.
Under Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year rule, the celebration was scrapped and instead, only the 1969 date of his coup was marked.
“Today we begin the building of Libya as our forefathers have done,” Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib said during the celebration. “We call on our sons to build Libya after its destruction.”
His remarks were part of an official ceremony in the capital Tripoli.
Libya was occupied for decades by various nations, and it was not until 1947 that both Italy and France relinquished claims to parts of the country. The United Libyan Kingdom was announced with U.N. backing in late 1951 under King Idris.
On the sidelines of the ceremony, el-Keib told reporters that the Economy Minister Taher Sharkas had resigned due to health reasons.
The resignation comes after protests demanding that officials of the former regime be barred from serving in government.
Sharkas had been appointed to the same post by Gadhafi just two months before the longtime leader’s capture and killing in October, a few three days before rebel fighters took over the capital, Tripoli.
Protesters in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, where the anti-Gadhafi uprising broke out in February, have been protesting for nearly two weeks, demanding transparency and justice from the country’s new leaders. They also called for Sharkas’ ouster after it was discovered that Gadhafi appointed as a minister on Aug. 18
The new government has said it is open to some reconciliation with former regime officials, but protesters are opposed.
According to an NTC official, who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to disclose internal policy, the prime minister is the one who chose Sharkas for the post. The official said it was a “sloppy” mistake and that el-Keib had not done enough research on Sharkas’ background.