Libya has been isolated by much of the international community for
many years for its alleged connection with the bombing of a PanAm plane
over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988.
However, UN sanctions, imposed to force Libya to
cooperate with investigators, eased when two Libyans were handed over
for trial in connection with the bombing.
A former Roman colony, Libya is a mostly desert country
which saw invasions by Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks and more
recently Italians before gaining independence in 1951.
Oil was discovered in 1959, and with it the country was
transformed into a wealthy monarchy. Ten years later, though, the king
was overthrown in a coup led by the 27-year-old Mu'ammar Gaddafi, and
the country embarked on a radically new chapter in its history.
Gaddafi's revolution has been based largely on
distinguishing his country from the world around it. Ideas put forward
in his Green Book aim at an alternative to both communism and
capitalism, while Islam is adhered to but with a unique slant - Libya
has its own calendar based on Muhammad's birth, for example.
Gaddafi called the new system a jamahiriya, loosely
translated as a "state of the masses". Power is held by various
people's committees, while in practice Gaddafi rules unopposed.
Libya was blamed for the Lockerbie bombing, and two
Libyans suspected of organising the incident were handed over in 1999
for trial in The Hague under Scottish law. Relations between Libya and
Western countries subsequently improved. In January 2001 one of the
suspects was found guilty of killing 270 people in the bombing.
|Population: 5.5 million (UN, 2003)
|Major language: Arabic
|Major religion: Islam
|Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 75 years (women) (UN)
|Monetary unit: 1 Libyan dinar (LD) = 1,000 dirhams
|Main exports: Crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas
|Average annual income: n/a
|Internet domain: .ly
|International dialling code: +218
Head of state: Col Mu'ammar Gaddafi
Mu'ammar Gaddafi was born in the desert near Sirte in
1942. He overthrew the monarchy in 1969 and launched a cultural
revolution to remove traces of imported ideology. He has supported a
broad range of militant groups including the IRA and the Palestine
Liberation Organisation. Alleged Libyan involvement in attacks in
Europe in 1986 led to US military strikes against Tripoli. For several
decades Gaddafi tried to portray himself as leader of the Arab world,
and has now taken up the mission of uniting Africa.
Leader Muammar Gaddafi
Prime minister: Shukri Muhammad Ghanim
Deputy premier (production): Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmudi
Deputy premier (services): Ammar al-Mabruk Lutayyif
Finance minister: Al-Ujayli Abd-al-Salam Burayni
Foreign minister: Abd-al-Rahman Muhammad Shalqam
People's control apparatus minister: Husni al-Wahishi al-Sadiq
Justice and security minister: Muhammad Ali al-Musrati
The state owns and controls the media and the
authorities do not permit the publication of opinions contrary to
government policy. Some international publications are available, but
authorities routinely censor them and may prohibit their entry into the
The Libyan Jamahiriyah Broadcasting Corporation is the national broadcaster. There are no privately-owned radio or TV stations.
The external radio service was renamed the Voice of
Africa in October 1998, to reflect Libya's change in political
orientation towards Africa and away from the Middle East and Arab
The press: Al-Fajr al-Jadid
Al-Fajr al-Jadid (English edition)
Great Jamahiriyah TV - state-run, available terrestrially and via satellite
Radio: Great Jamahiriyah Radio - state-run
Voice of Africa - state-run external service, broadcasting in Arabic, English, French
News agency: Jana (Jamahiriyah News Agency) - state-run