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Moammar Al Qadhafi

Moammar Abu Minyar Al Qadhafi (1942 - ) has been the ruler of Libya since January 15, 1970.

Gadhafi's name has been westernized in a wide variety of ways. These are the good alternatives: Gadhafi, Gadhdhafi, Qadhafi, Qadhdhafi, Kadhafi, Kadhdhafi, Qaddafi, Qadhafi. This alternative is often used, but is not considered to be acceptable: Khaddafi.

Gadhafi is the youngest child from a nomadic Bedouin peasant family in the desert region of Sirte[?], Gadhafi received a traditional religious primary education and attended the Sebha preparatory school in Fezzan from 1956 to 1961.

While in school, Gadhafi and a small group of friends formed a nucleus of militant revolutionary leaders, which would eventually take power in the country of Libya. He was inspired by Gamal Abdul Nasser, a popular statesman in neighboring Egypt who rose to the presidency by appealing to Arab unity and condemning the West. Qadhafi was expelled from school in 1961 for his political activism. He graduated from the University of Libya with high grades and entered the Military Academy in Benghazi in 1963, where he and a few of his fellow militants organized a secret corps of Unionist Officers whose explicit aim was the overthrow of the pro-Western monarchy. After graduating in 1965 he was sent to Britain for further training, returning a year later as a commissioned officer in the Signal Corps.

On September 1 1969, Colonel Gadhafi and his Unionist Officers staged a bloodless, unopposed coup d'état in Tripoli, the capital, overthrowing King Idris Senussi I[?] and taking complete control of the country. The former king was exiled. A brief power struggle between Gadhafi and the young officers on one side and the older senior officers and civilians who had participated in the coup on the other ensued, but in January 1970 Gadhafi assumed power in what would be called the Libyan Arab Republic. Between 1969 and 1977 he ruled the country as president of the Revolutionary Command Council, from 1977 to 1979 as president of People's General Congress. In 1979 he renounced all official titles but remained as the sole ruler of Libya.

Gadhafi based his new regime on what was called "Islamic socialism:" a blend of Arab nationalism, aspects of the welfare state and what Gadhafi termed direct, popular democracy. In his philosophy there is private control over small companies with governmental control over large companies. He has emphasized welfare, liberation and education. Gadhafi's politics has also been one of conservative morals, where alcohol and gambling have been outlawed. However, the reality of Libya's political system is thought to be somewhat less idealistic. Gadhafi has been known to respond to domestic and external opposition through violence. In February 1980, his revolutionary committees called for the assassination of Libyan dissidents living abroad, after which hit squads were sent abroad to murder opponents of the regime. To reinforce the idea of a socialist state, Gadhafi outlined his political philosophy in his Green Book (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/8744/readgb.htm), published in 1976.

Meanwhile, Gadhafi sought to live up to Nasser's ideas of pan-Arabism, becoming a fervent advocate of the unity of all Arab states into one Arab nation. He also became an advocate of pan-Islamism, the notion of a loose union of all Islamic countries and peoples. After Nasser died on September 28 1970, Gadhafi tried to assume the Egyptian's mantle of ideological leader of Arab nationalism. In 1972, Gadhafi proclaimed the Federation of Arab Republics[?] (Libya, Egypt and Syria) with the intention of creating a pan-Arab state. But the three countries failed to agree on the specific terms of the merger. In 1974 he signed an agreement with Tunisia's Bourgiba[?] on a merger between the two countries. This never happened, and eventually differences between the two countries would deteriorate into strong animosity.

Gadhafi also became a strong supporter of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which ultimately harmed Libya's relations with Egypt when in 1979 Egypt pursued a peace agreement with Israel. As Libya's relations with Egypt worsened, Gadhafi sought closer relations with the Soviet Union. Libya became the first country outside the Soviet bloc to receive the supersonic MIG-25[?] combat fighters, but their relations remained relatively distant. Qaddafi also sought to increase Libyan influence, especially in states with an Islamic population, by calling for the creation of a Saharan Islamic State[?] and supporting anti-government forces in sub-Saharan Africa.

Notable in his politics has been the support for liberation movements, in most cases Muslim groups. In the 1970s and the 1980s this support was sometimes so freely given that even the most unsympathetic groups could get Libyan support. Often the groups represented ideologies far away from Gadhafi's own. Through these politics (or rather lack of politics), Gadhafi confused the world. Throughout the 1970s, his regime was implicated in subversion and terrorist activities in both Arab and non-Arab countries. By the mid-1980s, he was widely regarded in the West as the principal financier of international terrorism. Reportedly, Qaddafi is to have been the financier of the "Black September Movement" which perpetrated the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre, was responsible for the direct control of the bombing of a German discotheque that wounded more than eighty U.S. Servicemen in 1986, and is said to have paid "Carlos the Jackal" to kidnap and release several of the Saudi Arabian and Iranian oil ministers when it fit his purposes to do so.

Tensions between Libya and the United States reached a peak during the Ronald Reagan administration, which tried to overthrow Gadhafi. In 1986, the U.S. bombing of Libyan sites in response to terrorism allegedly traced to Libya killed Gadhafi's adopted infant daughter. From the late 1980s Gadhafi's politics have changed into a more pragmatic and selective support of a limited number of groups.

For most of the 1990s, Libya endured economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation as a result of Gadhafi's refusal to allow the extradition to the United States or Britain of two Libyans accused of planting a bomb on a Pan American jet over Lockerbie, Scotland. With the intercession of South African President Nelson Mandela, who made a high-profile visit to Gadhafi in 1997, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Gadhafi agreed in 1999 to a compromise that involved handing over the defendants to the Netherlands for trial under Scottish law. U.N.-sponsored sanctions were suspended, but U.S. sanctions against Libya remained in force.

In the last ten years, though, Gadhafi has managed to improve his connections all over the Arab world and is today considered as a moderate and responsible leader throughout the Arab world. Through his strict line towards the U.S., he has become one of the most popular leaders among ordinary people all over the Arab world. So far there have been few indications of his softening the view upon Israel, and this will probably not change unless a real solution to the process with Palestine is achieved.

There are many explanations to the change of Gadhafi's politics. The most obvious is that the once very rich Libya was no longer strong through the 1990s, since oil prices have dropped significantly. Gadhafi needs other countries more than before, and can't hand out as much as he once could. Another possibility is that strong Western reactions have forced Gadhafi into changing his politics. But more important is that Gadhafi has changed because Realpolitik changed him. His ideals and aims did not materialize: there never was any Arab unity, the freedom fighters he supported didn't achieve their goals, and the demise of the Soviet Union left Gadhafi's main symbolic target, the U.S., stronger than ever. In October 1993 there was an unsuccessful attempt on Gadhafi's life by 2,000 members of the army, in May 1994 Libyan troops withdrew from Chad after a territorial dispute that began in 1973, returning to the original borders, and in July 1996 bloody riots followed a football match as a protest against Gadhafi.

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