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JULY 1994
Official Name:  Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya


Area:  1.8 million sq. km. (700,000 sq. mi.).  

Cities:  Capital--Tripoli (pop. 1.5 mil-lion).  Other--Benghazi 

Terrain:  Desert and semidesert; hills south of Tripoli and east of 

Climate:  Mediterranean on coast; arid.

Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Libyan(s).  

Population (est.):  4.9 million.

Annual growth rate (est.):  3%.  

Ethnic groups:  Berber and Arab 97%; some Greeks, Maltese, Italians, 
Egyptians, Pakistanis, Turks, Indians, and Tunisians.  

Religion:  97% Sunni Muslim.  

Language:   Arabic.  

Education:  Years compulsory--7.  Attendance--90%.  Literacy--64%. 

Health:  Infant mortality rate--60/1,000.  Life expectancy--male, 66 
yrs.; female, 71 yrs.  

Work force:  1.3 million, 500,000 of whom are resident foreign workers.  
Industry--31%.   Services--27%.  Government--24%.  Agriculture--18%.

Type:  Islamic Arabic Socialist "Jamahiriya" or "state of masses."  

Independence:  December 24, 1951.  Revolution:  September 1, 1969.  

Constitution:  December 11, 1969 (amended March 2, 1977)--established 
popular congresses and peoples committees.

Administrative divisions:  10 regions controlled by the central 
government; 25 municipalities (baladiya).

Political system (political parties are banned):  Based on theory of 
Maj. Gen. Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, multilayered popular assemblies (people's 
congresses) with executive institutions (people's committees) are guided 
by political cadres (revolutionary committees). 

Suffrage:  Mandatory universal adult.

GDP (1992 est.):  $27.7 billion.  

Per capita GDP:  $5,700.

Natural resources:  Crude oil, natural gas, gypsum.

Agriculture:  Products--wheat, barley, olives, citrus fruits, 
vegetables, dates, peanuts; 75% of Libya's food is imported.

Industry:  Types--petroleum, food processing, textiles, cement, 

Trade:  Exports (1992)--$10 billion:  petroleum, peanuts, hides.  Major 
markets--Italy, countries of the former Soviet Union, Germany, Spain, 
France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Turkey.  Imports--$7.6 billion:  machinery, 
transport equipment, food, manufactured goods.  Major suppliers--Italy, 
countries of the former Soviet Union, Germany, U.K., Japan.

Exchange rate (October 1993):  1 Libyan dinar=U.S.  $3.15.  


Libya has a small population in a large land area.  Population density 
is about 50 persons per sq. km. (80/sq. mi.) in the two northern regions 
of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, but falls to less than one person per sq. 
km. (1.6/sq. mi.) elsewhere.  Ninety percent of the people live in less 
than 10% of the area, primarily along the coast.  More than half the 
population is urban, mostly concentrated in the two largest cities, 
Tripoli and Benghazi.  Fifty percent of the population is under age 15.

Libyans are primarily a mixture of Arabs and Berbers.  Small Tebou and 
Touareg tribal groups in southern Libya are nomadic or semi-nomadic.  
Among foreign residents, the largest groups are Egyptians (estimates 
range from 400,000 to 1 million), Tunisians (40,000), Turks, Pakistanis, 
Indians, Sudanese, Moroccans, Jordanians, South Koreans, and Thais.  
Other foreign residents include 70,000 from Eastern Europe and 40,000 
from Western Europe.

For most of their history, the peoples of Libya have been subjected to 
varying degrees of foreign control.  The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, 
Greeks, Romans, Vandals, and Byzantines ruled all or parts of Libya.  
Although the Greeks and Romans left impressive ruins at Cyrene, Leptis 
Magna, and Sabratha, little else remains today to testify to the 
presence of these ancient cultures.

The Arabs conquered Libya in the seventh century A.D.  In the following 
centuries, most of the indigenous peoples adopted Islam and the Arabic 
language and culture.  The Ottoman Turks conquered the country in the 
16th century.  Libya remained part of their empire--although at times 
virtually autonomous--until Italy invaded in 1911 and, after years of 
resistance, made Libya a colony.

In 1934, Italy adopted the name "Libya" (used by the Greeks for all of 
North Africa, except Egypt) as the official name of the colony, which 
consisted of the Provinces of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Fezzan.  King 
Idris I, Emir of Cyrenaica, led Libyan resistance to Italian occupation 
between the two World Wars.  From 1943 to 1951, Tripolitania and 
Cyrenaica were under British administration; the French controlled 
Fezzan.  In 1944, Idris returned from exile in Cairo but declined to 
resume permanent residence in Cyrenaica until the removal in 1947 of 
some aspects of foreign control.  Under the terms of the 1947 peace 
treaty with the Allies, Italy relinquished all claims to Libya.

On November 21, 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution 
stating that Libya should become independent before January 1, 1952.  
King Idris I represented Libya in the subsequent UN negotiations.  When 
Libya declared its independence on December 24, 1951, it was the first 
country to achieve independence through the United Nations.  Libya was 
proclaimed a constitutional and a hereditary monarchy under King Idris.

The discovery of significant oil reserves in 1959 and the subsequent 
income from petroleum sales enabled what had been one of the world's 
poorest countries to become extremely wealthy, as measured by per capita 

King Idris ruled the Kingdom of Libya until he was overthrown in a 
military-led coup on September 1, 1969.  The new regime, headed by the 
Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), abolished the monarchy and 
proclaimed the new Libyan Arab Republic.  Col. Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi 
emerged as leader of the RCC and eventually as de facto chief of state, 
a position he currently holds.  He has no official position.

Seeking new directions, the RCC's motto became "freedom, socialism, and 
unity."  It pledged itself to remove backwardness, take an active role 
in the Palestinian Arab cause, promote Arab unity, and encourage 
domestic policies based on social justice, non-exploitation, and an 
equitable distribution of wealth.

An early objective of the new government was withdrawal of all foreign 
military installations from Libya.  Following negotiations, British 
military installations at Tobruk and nearby El Adem were closed in March 
1970, and U.S. facilities at Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli were 
closed in June 1970.  That July, the Libyan Government ordered the 
expulsion of several thousand Italian residents.  By 1971, libraries and 
cultural centers operated by foreign governments were ordered closed.

During the years since the revolution, Libya claimed leadership of Arab 
and African revolutionary forces and sought active roles in various 
international organizations.  Late in the 1970s, Libyan embassies were 
redesignated as "people's bureaus," as Qadhafi sought to portray Libyan 
foreign policy as an expression of the popular will.  The people's 
bureaus, aided by Libyan religious, political, educational, and business 
institutions overseas, exported Qadhafi's revolutionary philosophy 

For seven years, the Government of Libya consisted of Colonel Qadhafi 
and the Revolutionary Command Council.  On March 3, 1977, Qadhafi 
convened a General People's Congress (GPC) to proclaim the establishment 
of "people's power," change the country's name to the Socialist People's 
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, and to vest, theoretically, primary authority in 
the GPC. 

Qadhafi remained the de facto chief of state and secretary general of 
the GPC until 1980, when he gave up his office.  He continues to control 
the Libyan Government through direct appeals to the masses, a pervasive 
security apparatus, and powerful revolutionary committees.

Although he holds no formal office, Qadhafi exercises absolute power 
with the assistance of a small group of trusted advisers, who include 
relatives from his home base in the Sirte region, which lies between the 
rival provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. 

Before the 1969 constitution, Libya had a dual system of civil and 
religious courts.  The new constitution established the primacy of 
Shari'a, or Islamic law, unifying the two systems.  Civil laws now must 
conform to Shari'a.

The Libyan court system consists of four ascending levels.  The GPC 
appoints justices to the Supreme Court.  Military courts and special 
"revolutionary courts" operate outside the judicial system.

After the revolution, Qadhafi took increasing control of the government, 
but he also attempted to achieve greater popular participation in local 
government.  In 1973, he announced the start of a "cultural revolution" 
in schools, businesses, industries, and public institutions to oversee 
administration of those organizations in the public interest.  The March 
1977 establishment of "people's power"--with mandatory popular 
participation in the selection of representatives to the GPC--was the 
culmination of this process.

The GPC is the legislative forum that interacts with the General 
People's Committee, whose members are secretaries of Libyan ministries.  
It serves as the intermediary between the masses and the leadership and 
is composed of the secretariats of some 600 local "basic popular 

The GPC secretariat and the cabinet secretaries are appointed by the GPC 
secretary general and confirmed by the annual GPC congress.  These 
cabinet secretaries are responsible for the routine operation of their 
ministries, but real authority is exercised by Qadhafi directly or 
through manipulation of the peoples and revolutionary committees.

In the 1980s, competition between the official Libyan Government and 
military hierarchies and the revolutionary committees was growing.  An 
abortive coup attempt in May 1984, apparently mounted by Libyan exiles 
with internal support, led to a short-lived reign of terror in which 
thousands were imprisoned and interrogated.  An unknown number were 
executed.  Qadhafi used the revolutionary committees to search out 
alleged internal opponents following the coup attempt, thereby 
accelerating the rise of more radical elements inside the Libyan power 

In 1988, faced with rising public dissatisfaction with shortages in 
consumer goods and setbacks in Libya's war with Chad, Qadhafi began to 
curb the power of the revolutionary committees and to institute some 
domestic reforms.  The regime released many political prisoners and 
eased restrictions on foreign travel by Libyans.  Private businesses 
were again permitted to operate.

Since the late 1980s, Qadhafi has pursued a harsh anti-Islamic 
fundamentalist policy domestically, presumably viewing fundamentalism as 
a potential rallying point for opponents of the regime.  Ministerial 
positions and military commanders are also frequently shuffled to 
diffuse potential threats to Qadhafi's authority.  More recently, the 
government has sought to counter popular discontent over deteriorating 
economic conditions with appeals to nationalism in the face of 
international sanctions.

Despite these measures, internal dissent continues.  Qadhafi's security 
forces launched a pre-emptive strike at alleged coup plotters in the 
military and among the Warfallah tribe in October 1993.  Widespread 
arrests and government reshufflings followed, accompanied by public 
"confessions" from regime opponents and allegations of torture and 

Principal Government Officials
De facto Head of State--Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi
Secretary, Foreign Liaison Office--'Umar Mustafa al-Muntassir

The General People's Congress continued to pursue the goals of the 
ruling Revolutionary Command Council soon after the 1984 coup attempt.  
These goals included a more equitable distribution of income and 
services, greater government control of the economy, and independence 
from foreign influence.  Libya also dedicated increasing resources to 
showcase items such as major irrigation projects, overseas 
interventions, and a military buildup.

In 1992-93, the Libyan Government embarked on a gradual economic 
liberalization program.  Recent developments include the issuance of 
regulations governing the privatization of selected public enterprises 
and the lifting of restrictions on private wholesale trade.  Its economy 
remains dependent upon revenues from exported crude oil.  Currently, oil 
production is 1.5 million barrels per day.

During the 1970s, Libyan Government expenditures did not keep pace with 
the rapid rise in oil revenues.  The resulting surplus led to the growth 
of large central bank foreign exchange reserves.  At their peak, these 
reached $14 billion in 1981, but OPEC's production restraints and 
softening oil prices led to revenue shortfalls, which have resulted 
recently in an annual drawdown of foreign exchange reserves by about $2 
billion per year.  Reserves dropped to $3.5 billion in 1993.

Since 1981, fiscal difficulties associated with declining oil revenues 
combined with the effects of various socialist schemes have hurt 
merchants and other business professionals.  Although Libyans have 
experienced a dramatic rise in the standard of living during the past 20 
years, more recent economic austerity measures as well as tighter 
internal security controls have caused a general deterioration in the 
quality of life for many Libyans.  Nonetheless, distribution of national 
wealth remains more equitable in Libya than in many other developing 

Libya's major trading partners are Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and 
countries of the former Soviet Union.  In response to Libyan support of 
terrorism, the U.S. Government prohibited the importation of Libyan 
crude oil into the United States in March 1982 and imposed strict 
controls on U.S.-origin goods intended for export to Libya.  A total ban 
on trade with Libya went into effect in January 1986.

Although agriculture is the second-largest sector in the economy, Libya 
is self-sufficient in few foods.  Higher incomes and a growing 
population have caused food consumption to rise.  Domestic food 
production meets only about 25% of demand.  A long-term objective is to 
become self-sufficient in agriculture, although the scarcity of water is 
a serious obstacle.  Libya is undertaking a multi-billion-dollar project 
to tap water resources deep under the Sahara to meet coastal population 
water needs in the 1990s.  However, technical and administrative 
problems are hindering progress.

Since 1969, Qadhafi has determined Libya's foreign policy.  His 
principal foreign policy goals have been Arab unity, elimination of 
Israel, advancement of Islam, support for Palestinians, elimination of 
outside--particularly Western--influence in the Middle East and Africa, 
and support for a range of "revolutionary" causes.  

After the 1969 coup, Qadhafi closed American and British bases on Libyan 
territory and partially nationalized all foreign oil and commercial 
interests in Libya.  He played a key role in introducing oil as a 
political weapon for challenging the West.  He hoped that an oil price 
rise and embargo in 1973 would persuade the West--especially the United 
States--to end support for Israel.  Qadhafi rejected both Soviet 
communism and Western capitalism, seeking an allegedly middle course.

Libya's relationship with the former Soviet Union involved massive 
Libyan arms purchases from the Soviet bloc and the presence of thousands 
of its advisers.  Libya's use--and heavy loss--of Soviet-supplied 
weaponry in its war with Chad was a notable breach of an apparent 
Soviet-Libyan understanding not to use the weapons for activities 
inconsistent with Soviet objectives.  As a result, Soviet-Libyan 
relations reached a nadir in mid-1987.

Since the fall of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, Libya has 
concentrated upon expanding diplomatic ties with Third World countries 
and increasing its commercial links with Europe and East Asia.  Libya 
recently has made substantial investments in international financial 
institutions and petroleum refining and marketing operations.  These 
foreign investments, however, have been the target of varying 
enforcement actions under UN Security Council Resolution 883, which 
imposed a limited freeze on Libyan assets abroad.

Merger Attempts with Neighbors
In pursuit of his goal of Arab unity, Qadhafi has tried unsuccessfully 
at various times to merge with Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, and 
Syria.  In August 1981, he signed a treaty with Ethiopia and the then-
People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) that attempted to 
provide a framework for coordinating the foreign policies of the three 
countries.  In 1984, Libya concluded a treaty of union with Morocco.  
Morocco abrogated this treaty in August 1986.  In 1987, Libya once again 
proposed a bilateral union, with Algeria.  Algeria then called on Libya 
to join a 1983 tripartite pact linking Algeria, Tunisia, and Mauritania.  
Qadhafi rejected this offer.  Libya and Tunisia subsequently re-stored 
diplomatic relations in December 1987, as did Egypt and Libya in 1989.  
Libya also joined in the 1988 establishment of the Arab Maghreb Union 
that linked Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, in addition to 
Libya, in a grouping modeled on the European Union.

In addition to using oil as leverage in his foreign policy, Qadhafi's 
principal tactics have been destabilization of weaker governments and 
terrorism.  Libya continues to harbor and finance groups all over the 
world that share Qadhafi's revolutionary and anti-Western views, 
including the Japanese Red Army and such radical Muslim groups as the 
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Abu 
Nidal's Fatah Revolutionary Council.  Its support for terrorist activity 
against U.S. citizens and interests resulted in U.S. air strikes against 
Libya in April 1986; the precipitating event for this U.S. action was 
the bombing of a Berlin discotheque which killed an American serviceman 
and for which evidence of Libyan complicity had been discovered.

In October 1987, a Libyan arms shipment was intercepted on its way to 
the Irish Republican Army.  In 1988, operatives of the Abu Nidal 
Organization, which is headquartered in Libya, launched a grenade attack 
on a Khartoum hotel and sprayed a Greek passenger ferry with machine-gun 
fire.  Later that year, two Libyan intelligence agents planted an 
explosive device in Malta on the flight connecting with Pan Am flight 
103 in Germany which later exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 
259 passengers and crew and 11 people on the ground.  In September 1989, 
Libya masterminded the bombing of UTA flight 772 over Niger, killing all 
171 persons aboard.

Libyan terrorism also has targeted anti-Qadhafi dissidents overseas.  
Qadhafi's public calls for the deaths of Libyan opponents abroad during 
the latter half of 1993 raised strong suspicions of his regime's 
involvement in the disappearance of prominent Libyan dissident Mansour 
Kikhya from Cairo in December 1993.

While supporting terrorist groups, Qadhafi also has attempted to 
undermine other Arab and African states by supporting coups, funding and 
training opposition political parties and guerrilla groups, and plotting 
assassinations of rival leaders.  He also has sought involvement in Asia 
and Latin America through support for various subversive groups.  Use of 
such methods has strained Libyan relations with many nations.

Qadhafi's foreign interventions included a bid to prop up former Ugandan 
dictator Idi Amin in 1979; incursions and intermittent war with Chad 
throughout the 1980s; continued claims on territory in Chad, Niger, and 
Algeria; and alleged support of Islamic fundamentalist groups in Sudan, 
Algeria, and Egypt.  Libya withdrew its forces from the disputed Aouzou 
Strip in mid-1994, after the International Court of Justice ruled 
Libya's presence an illegal occupation of Chadian territory.

The United States supported the UN resolution providing for Libyan 
independence in 1951 and raised the status of its office at Tripoli from 
a consulate general to a legation.  Libya opened a legation in 
Washington, DC, in 1954.  Both countries subsequently raised their 
missions to embassy level.

After Qadhafi's 1969 coup, U.S.-Libyan relations became increasingly 
strained because of Libya's foreign policies supporting international 
terrorism and subversion against moderate Arab and African governments.  
In 1972, the United States withdrew its ambassador.  Export controls on 
military equipment and civil aircraft were imposed during the 1970s, and 
U.S. embassy staff members were withdrawn from Tripoli after a mob 
attacked and set fire to the embassy in December 1979.  The U.S. 
Government declared Libya a "state sponsor of terrorism" on December 29, 

In May 1981, the U.S. Government closed the Libyan "people's bureau" 
(embassy) in Washington, DC, and expelled the Libyan staff in response 
to a general pattern of conduct by the people's bureau contrary to 
internationally accepted standards of diplomatic behavior.

In August 1981, two Libyan jets fired on U.S. aircraft participating in 
a routine naval exercise over international waters of the Mediterranean 
claimed by Libya.  The U.S. planes returned fire and shot down the 
attacking Libyan aircraft.  In December 1981, the State Department 
invalidated U.S. passports for travel to Libya and, for purposes of 
safety, advised all U.S. citizens in Libya to leave.  In March 1982, the 
U.S. Government prohibited imports of Libyan crude oil into the United 
States and expanded the controls on U.S.-origin goods intended for 
export to Libya.  Licenses were required for all transactions, except 
food and medicine.  In March 1984, U.S. export controls were expanded to 
prohibit future exports to the Ras al-Enf petrochemical complex.  In 
April 1985, all Export-Import Bank financing was prohibited.

Due to Libya's continuing support for terrorism, the United States 
adopted additional economic sanctions against Libya in January 1986, 
including a total ban on direct import and export trade, commercial 
contracts, and travel-related activities.  In addition, Libyan 
Government assets in the United States were frozen.  When evidence of 
Libyan complicity was discovered in the Berlin discotheque terrorist 
bombing that killed an American serviceman, the United States responded 
by launching an aerial bombing attack against targets near Tripoli and 
Benghazi in April 1986.  Since then, the United States has maintained 
its trade and travel embargoes and has sought to bring diplomatic and 
economic pressure to bear against Libya.

In 1988, Libya was found to be in the process of constructing a chemical 
weapons plant at Rabta, a plant which is now the largest such facility 
in the Third World.  Libya is currently constructing another chemical 
weapons production facility at Tarhunah.  Libya's support for terrorism 
and its past regional aggressions made this development a matter of 
major concern to the United States.  In cooperation with like-minded 
countries, the United States has since sought to bring a halt to the 
foreign technical assistance deemed essential to the completion of this 

In 1991, two Libyan intelligence agents were indicted by federal 
prosecutors in the U.S. and Scotland for their involvement in the 
December 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103.  In January 1992, the UN 
Security Council approved Resolution 731 demanding that Libya surrender 
the suspects, cooperate with the Pan Am 103 and UTA 772 investigations, 
pay compensation to the victims' families, and cease all support for 
terrorism.  Libya's refusal to comply led to the approval of UNSC 
Resolution 748 on March 31, 1992, imposing sanctions designed to bring 
about Libyan compliance.  Continued Libyan defiance led to passage of 
UNSC Resolution 883--a limited assets freeze and an embargo on selected 
oil equipment--in November 1993.  


Since December 1981, U.S. passports have been declared invalid for 
travel to, in, or through Libya, unless specifically validated for such 
travel by the Department of State.  Unauthorized use of a U.S. passport 
for travel to Libya is subject to criminal prosecution under Section 
1544 of Title 18, United States Code.

Persons seeking passport validations or further information should 
contact the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services, 
Room 300, 1425 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20522-1705; or, if abroad, 
the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  The U.S. Government maintains no 
diplomatic or consular representation in Libya, and, therefore, cannot 
provide protective services to American citizens.  Very limited services 
are available through the embassy of Belgium in Tripoli, which acts as 
the U.S. protecting power in Libya.  Further information is available 
from the Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State.  


Published by the United States Department of State -- Bureau of Public 
Affairs -- Office of Public Communication -- Washington, DC -- July 1994 
Managing Editor:  Peter A. Knecht -- Editor:  Peter Freeman

Department of State Publication 7815 --  Background Notes Series 
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing 
Office, Washington, DC  20402.  

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