History of Modern Libya

History of Modern Libya Last updated on Wednesday 21st April 2010

A new era in the history of Libya began on September 1, 1969, when a group of young army officers overthrew the royal government and established a republic under the name Libyan Arab Republic.

The revolutionary government of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, showed a determination thereafter to play a larger role in the affairs of the Middle East and North Africa. Representatives of Libya engaged in discussions with Egypt and the Sudan on plans for the coordination of economic, military, and political policies of the three countries. In September 1971, Egypt, Libya, and Syria agreed to form a federation designed for mutual military advantage against Israel.

Internally, Qaddafi,'s government decided that all businesses must be completely owned by Libyans in the future. All banks were subsequently nationalized. Agreement was reached with foreign-owned oil companies that increased Libya's annual oil revenues by $770 million at that time. However, Libya nationalized all the oil resources of the country in the early 1970's. Even before the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, Qaddafi urged his fellow Arabs to refuse trading in oil, which is considered to be so vital to the industrialized countries of the West, with any nation supporting Israel. After the war Libya joined an embargo of oil sales to the West and urged higher prices to the oil-consuming countries.

Under Qaddafi's leadership Libya sought to take a more active role in both the Arab affairs and in the international politics. Opposing the peace initiative toward Israel of Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat, Libya took a leading part with Syria in 1978 in the so-called rejectionist.

Libyan relations with the United States deteriorated in the early 1980s. In 1981 two Libyan fighter planes were shot down by U.S. Navy jets over the Gulf of Sidra, which Libya claimed as territorial waters. In 1982 the United States imposed an embargo on Libyan oil imports. Another encounter in the Gulf of Sidra in March 1986 resulted in the destruction of two Libyan ships by U.S. Navy ships. In April, responding to heightened terrorism in Europe apparently directed by Libya against Americans, the United States bombed sites in Libya alleged by President Ronald Reagan to be “terrorist centers.” Qaddafi's home at one of the barracks was damaged and his infant daughter was killed.

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Libya urged moderation, opposing both Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent use of force against Iraq. Ties with Egypt were strengthened during 1991, but those with the United States worsened, especially in 1992 when it was charged that Libya was manufacturing chemical weapons. In April 1992, United Nations sanctions were imposed against Libya for its refusal to extradite the two men suspected of involvement in the 1988 bombing of Pan American Flight (103) over Lockerbie, Scotland.

In 1994 the International Court of Justice ruled that Chad had sovereignty over the Aozou Strip, a territory that had been occupied by Libyan military forces for more than 20 years. In 1999 Libya agreed to hand over the two suspects in the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie to stand trial in The Netherlands under Scottish law. Upon delivery of the suspects for transport to The Netherlands, the United Nations suspended sanctions against Libya. A court in Camp Zeist, Holland, jailed Abdel Basit Al-Miqrahi and discharged al-Amean Khaleefa Fihaima in 2001 and the Lockerbie case has, at last, came to a close. Libya's relation has, subsequently, started to improve with the West.

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