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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Gaddafi - a lifetime in politics

RIA Novosti

18:17 22/08/2011 MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti) - Time seems to be up for Muammar Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya for over 40 years in a unique, sometimes eccentric style, after rebel forces claimed much of the capital, Tripoli.

The Arab world's longest serving leader came to power in a bloodless coup on September 1, 1969, deposing King Idris al-Senussi and proclaiming a Libyan republic.

In 1977, Gaddafi renamed his country the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, which translates as "the state of the masses."

Libya has no political parties, as Gaddafi says the "party system is an abortion of democracy." The country is organized through a system of people's committees similar to the organizations that existed in the former Soviet Union.

Gaddafi has maintained tight control over dissidents by the use of "purging committees" to keep them in check.

In the 1980s, Gaddafi sent hit squads to murder exiled "stray dogs" who challenged the revolution. Islamist rebels at home were crushed in the 1990s.

He has spent billions of dollars from oil revenues to improve living standards, making him a popular figure with many ordinary people.

Gaddafi has also, however, used the oil money to fight "imperialism" throughout the world.

Gaddafi was believed to be a major financier of the Black September Movement that perpetrated the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, and was accused of being behind the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 200, a significant number of whom were U.S. servicemen.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan called him a "mad dog" and sent warplanes to bomb Libya in response later that year, killing 60 people, including Gaddafi's adopted daughter.

Libya also sponsored rebel movements across Africa, including the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone, and anti-government rebels in Chad, which gained the country a long list of enemies.

In 1992, the United Nations imposed sanctions on Tripoli to pressure it to hand over two Libyan suspects in the 1988 Pan Am airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people were killed.

The war in Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime caused many Arab leaders to think again about how easily they could be deposed at the whim of the United States. Gaddafi quickly learned the lessons of Iraq and revised his anti-Western policy.

He abandoned his country's covert nuclear weapons program and invited IAEA inspectors to visit the country's nuclear center in Tadjoura. In addition, without admitting Libya's guilt, Gaddafi agreed to pay compensation to the Lockerbie victims' families - $10 million for each of the 270 casualties.

In 2004, the U.S. lifted the economic embargo on Libya, and in 2006, the White House removed Libya from the list of states sponsoring international terrorism.

The recent uprisings in neighboring countries do not appear to have shaken his resolve to stay in power. He sent messages of support to Tunisia's Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali and to Egypt's Hosni Mubarak before they stepped down.

Gaddafi remains defiant. He said on Sunday he "will stay until the end" and urged his supporters to keep fighting to "liberate" the capital from the rebels.

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