Libya celebrates 40th Anniversary in style
Libya staged a lavish spectacle Tuesday, parading white-robed
horsemen and gold-turbaned dancers as jets streaked overhead to
celebrate the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought Moammar Gadhafi
to power in the oil-rich nation.
Nomadic Tuaregs looks at hot air balloons flying over the desert
of Ghadames, western Libya as part of celebrations marking the
40th Anniversary of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s regime. AFP
The four-day festivities were designed to highlight the volatile
leader's acceptance on the world stage, but were overshadowed by new
controversies about the return of the only man convicted of the
Lockerbie bombing. While African leaders held a summit to coincide with
the celebrations, most Western leaders stayed away.
The Libyan Leader, known for his outlandish outfits and penchant for
conducting state business in tents, started the celebrations before dawn
Tuesday, timed to coincide with the start of the coup, with a feast at a
former U.S. air base that was later turned into a Libyan military camp.
Addressing the audience, Gadhafi said that as a young Libyan
lieutenant he'd been barred from entering the base by an American
"I told the soldier: 'You'll see what the future has in store,'" said
Gadhafi. "I don't think the American soldier quite measured the scope of
The return home of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of
the 1988 Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people, overshadowed the
celebrations. Scottish officials released him Aug. 20 on compassionate
grounds because doctors said he was suffering from terminal prostate
cancer and had only three months to live. But his release and warm
homecoming in Libya outraged many of the victims' families and US
Libya's decision to include a video clip during the anniversary
celebration show of al-Megrahi stepping off the plane from Scotland to
roaring cheers could stoke even more anger. The segment, which lasted
only a few seconds, came at the end of a video presentation chronicling
Gadhafi's accomplishments since the 1969 coup. Intense public pressure
over al-Megrahi's release has sent the British and Scottish governments
scrambling to respond. On Tuesday, both governments made public their
correspondence on his release showing some British officials advised
Scotland's government that there were no legal obstacles to returning
al-Megrahi to Libya.
Other documents showed British Justice Secretary Jack Straw initially
believed al-Megrahi should be excluded from a prisoner transfer
agreement signed between the UK and Libya, but later changed his mind -
saying he did not wish to damage the "beneficial relationship" between
the two countries.
"Developing a strong relationship with Libya, and helping it to
reintegrate into the international community, is good for the UK," Straw
said in that letter to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.
"Libya is one of only two countries to have ever voluntarily and
transparently dismantled its weapons of mass destruction program. Having
sponsored terrorist attacks in the past, it is now an important partner
in the fight against terrorism."
The Lockerbie controversy was not the only one dogging the
In a sign of how tightly the government was trying to control the
festivities, Italy said Libya wanted an Italian air force acrobatic team
flying over Tripoli to only emit green smoke - a color Gadhafi
associates with his regime.
Italy threatened to ground the planes, and, in a victory for the
former colonial ruler, when the jets did fly Tuesday night, they emitted
their traditional red, white and green colors of the Italian flag.
Rome has maintained generally good relations with Gadhafi, and Libya
is a major supplier of gas and oil to Italy, Libya's former colonial
ruler. Italian Premier Silvia Berlusconi met with Gadhafi in Libya on
Sunday to mark the one-year anniversary of a friendship treaty with
Gadhafi, 67, has courted many controversies during his rule. He
toppled Libya's king in a largely bloodless coup on Sept. 1, 1969, and
has been at the helm of the North African country ever since, sometimes
referred to as "The Guide," or more frequently "Brother Leader." The son
of modest desert Bedouins, Gadhafi was a 27-year-old army captain when
he led a group of young officers to power. After the coup, Gadhafi
nationalized most of the American and other Western assets in Libya,
fast souring relations with much of the outside world. AFP