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Libya bans religious political parties

TRIPOLI, Libya - The National Transitional Council issued a new law Wednesday that bans parties based on religious principles, the council spokesman said, a surprising move that was denounced by Islamists organizing to compete in upcoming elections.

Mohammed al-Hareizi said the provision, included in a law that governs the formation of political parties, was designed to preserve “national unity.’’

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“Parties shouldn’t be based on ethnic or religious ideologies,’’ he said. “We don’t want the government to be divided by these ideological differences.’’

The law comes two months ahead of the country’s first general elections to choose a 200-member assembly tasked with writing a new constitution and forming a government.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Libya’s most organized political movement, denounced the law.

“This is not democracy,’’ said Mohammed Gaira, spokesman for the Freedom and Development party founded by the Muslim Brotherhood this year.

“We don’t understand this law . . . It could mean nothing, or it could mean that none of us can participate in the election,’’ he added. “We are a nationalist party and Islam is our religion. This law is unacceptable and only suits liberals.’’

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