Libya at a glance

By United Press International

Area: 679,358 square miles Capital: Tripoli

History -- Libya, ruled by Italy from 1912 and by France and Britain after World War II, became an independent, constitutional monarchy in 1952. Moammar Khadafy seized power in a coup Sept. 1, 1969, that overthrew King Idris I, who died in exile in 1983.


Geography - Its nearly 680,000 square miles make Libya 2 times the size of Texas -- and Africa's fourth-largest country -- with a 1,100-mile Mediterranean coastline. But 92 percent of the sparcely populated North African nation is desert or semi-desert. Its neighbors are Tunisia and Algeria to the west, Niger, Chad and Sudan to the south and Egypt to the east.

People -- The Libyan population is composed mostly of Moslem Arabs and Berbers. Seventy percent are illiterate. There is a heavy dependence on educated foreign workers, who make up more than one-third of the workforce.


Government - Khadafy's socialist regime drew closer to the Soviet Union after an arms deal in 1975 and has become an increasingly radical single-party socialist state. The 1977 constitution declared the ''authority of the people'' under Islam and abolished ''all types of traditional means for ruling society,'' including individuals and parties. The United States and other Western countries accuse the Khadafy regime of instigating terrorism on a global scale. Cairo's Al Ahram newspaper reported a failed attempt to overthrow Khadafy Aug. 31, 1985, after he ordered an invasion of Tunisia.

Economy -- Libya, as of June 1981, was the fourth-largest supplier of crude and refined petroleum products to the United States, providing nearly 10 percent of U.S. oil imports. All foreign banks were nationalized in 1970. The government took over foreign oil companies in 1973-74.

Military -- Libya has more than $4 billion worth of Soviet-made weapons but is saddled with inadequately trained personnel and poor maintenance of the sophisticated weaponry. Many of its combat aircraft are in mothballs because of a lack of pilots. The shortage of Libyan pilots forces Khadafy to rely on Palestinians, North Koreans, Syrians, Pakistanis and some Soviets to fly his warplanes and provide technical staff. The International Institute for Strategic Studies puts Libya's total armed strength at 73,000 men and women, including a 58,000-strong army equipped with Soviet-made tanks. There is a 6,500-man navy. For air defenses, Libya is believed to rely on Soviet-built SAM-5 missiles.


U.S.-Libya -- There has been no U.S. Embassy in Tripoli since the embassy building was burned in 1980. In May 1981 the Reagan administration, referring to Libyan ''assassination squads,'' ordered Libya's Washington embassy closed. In December 1981, President Reagan asked Americans, some 1,500 of them mostly in the oil industry, to leave Libya. Thousands did leave, many only temporarily. On Dec. 13, 1984, the State Department again warned Americans to leave Libya. In January 1986 there were still 1,500 Americans working in Libya. After U.S. accusations that Libya backed the Dec. 27, 1985, terrorist attacks at Rome and Vienna airports that killed 19 people and wounded more than 110 others, the State Department warned Americans in Libya they were ''taking a risk'' by remaining there.

U.S. interests in Libya are handled by Belgium.

Britain-Libya -- Britain severed relations with Libya in April 1984 following an 11-day siege of Libya's London embassy that began when someone inside fired a machine gun at anti-Khadafy demonstrators, killing a policewoman.

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