TRIPOLI — Libya's former rebels, who battled the forces of dead dictator Muammar Qadhafi, are demanding greater representation in the National Transitional Council, a commander from Misrata said on Monday.
The "thwars" [revolutionaries] demand that 40 per cent of the NTC be composed of former rebels "because they are the symbol of this revolution", said Fraj Al Soueili from Misrata, the port city east of Tripoli that was besieged by Qadhafi's men.
He was reading the final communique after a conference of the "Union of Thwars in Libya", which says it represents up to 70 per cent of the ex-rebels.
On Wednesday, NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil called on the former rebels at the conference in Tripoli to come up with a list of potential candidates to join the interim body.
"We will choose seven, eight or nine to become members of the national council," he said.
Abdel Jalil's announcement, which came as the NTC faces unprecedented criticism since the fall of the former regime, was welcomed with rounds of applause and cries of "Allahu Akbar [God is greatest]".
There are currently around 50 members of the NTC, which must be dissolved following the election next June of a national congress.
Soueili said civil society groups and local councils should also have a former rebel representation of 40 per cent, 10 per cent women and 10 per cent from the Amazigh Berber, Toubou and Tuareg minorities.
"The council is not representative enough ... The question is being discussed [with the authorities], but it's going to happen," said Al-Bahlul Essid, one of the conference organisers.
He said was it was not a question of dissolving the NTC but enlarging it.
The former fighters are also demanding the dismissal of several NTC members accused of being "opportunists" or collaborating with the former regime, another delegate, Mohammed Khfayer from Al Bayda in the east, told AFP.
The conference delegates also decided to create a committee of 25 officers from the country's former army to choose a new chief of staff, after Abdel Jalil called on them to come up with a list of candidates.
This new chief "must come from the ranks of the traditional army because this is a military position," Abdel Jalil said.
The committee will meet in Misrata on January 1, and has already been sent dozens of applications, said Khfayer, himself an officer in the previous army.
"He must have proved himself on the ground, not slept under the air-conditioning while we were fighting without knowing whether we would come back alive," Khfayer said of the new army chief.