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Tribal leaders and militia commanders in oil-rich eastern Libya have declared they are forming a semiautonomous region inside the country.

Some 2,000 representatives of major tribal leaders, militia commanders and politicians made the declaration at a meeting on March 6 in the city of Benghazi.

They said that "a federal system is the choice of the region" of Cyrenaica, which stretches from the central coastal city of Sirte to the Egyptian border in the east.

The move comes six months after the downfall of Libya's longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

Participants at the meeting said it was not intended to divide the country.

But they insisted it was a necessary step to end decades of the region's marginalization under Qaddafi.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of Libya's National Transitional Council -- the interim central government in Tripoli -- responded angrily to the development, accusing unspecified Arab nations of supporting and financing sedition in eastern Libya.

With reporting by AP, and AFP