Libya Conflict History
Head of State: Muammar Qaddafi, September 1969-
"Free Officers" group led by Colonel Qaddafi overthrew King Idris al-Sanusi in bloodless coup 1 September 1969. Qadhafi initially established Nasserist type "Arab socialist" one-party state – oil nationalised 1973 – before taking radically different direction with constitution of "state of the masses" (Jamahiriyya) based on popular committees at every level.
Qaddafi has consistently sought leading world/regional role maintained by oil wealth and small, relatively well-educated population. Successive pan-Arab moves failed 1970s, including plans for Islamic Arab Republic with Tunisia 1974 and state union with Syria 1980. Libya fought four-day war with Egypt 1977, has had border disputes with Algeria, Niger and Tunisia, and invaded Chad 1980s occupying Aouzou strip, from which Libya withdrew permanently 1994. Libya became increasingly estranged from Arab League 1990s, accusing Arab leaders of ineffectually defending Palestinians. Qaddafi expelled 30,000 Palestinians 1995, protesting Oslo accords between Israel and PLO.
Libya's relations with Western powers deteriorated rapidly 1970s and 1980s with Libyan support for PLO and other movements (IRA, ETA). Libya furthermore supported Iran in 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war while promoting anti-U.S. sentiment around world. U.S. downed 2 Libyan warplanes in Gulf of Sirte 1981, banned oil imports from Libya 1982. Following Libya-backed terrorist attacks on El Al counters at Vienna and Rome airports 1985, and 1986 Berlin disco bombing, U.S. bombed Tripoli and Benghazi. Evidence of Libyan involvement in Pan Am 103 (Lockerbie) bombing 1988 and UTA 772 bombing 1989 led to UN sanctions: initially arms and air embargoes 1992, later freezing of Libyan funds abroad and banning of provision of oil equipment and transportation 1993. UN Security Council extended sanctions extended 1998.
Relations with neighbours and outside world improved 1990s as sanctions negatively affected Libya's economy. Libya turned to pan-African institutions, seeking African support for easing of sanctions regime. Libya's handover of Lockerbie suspects 1999 led to indefinite suspension of UN sanctions April 1999. Their trial at Scottish court in Netherlands led to 1conviction, upheld on appeal 2002. Libyan acceptance of responsibility August 2003 and provision of $2.7 billion compensation led to permanent end of UN sanctions.
Relations with West improved dramatically December 2003 with Libyan renunciation of programs to build weapons of mass destruction. U.S. and EU lifted sanctions 2004. Release of Palestinian doctor and Bulgarian nurses January 2007 after long-running HIV-infection trial positive step in opening up of Libya, though domestic political situation remains tightly controlled.
updated September 2008