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A chronology of key events

BBC News Online, Thursday 21 June 2001, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK

7th century BC—Phoenicians settle in Tripolitania in western Libya.

4th century BC—Greeks colonise Cyrenaica in the east of the country, which they call Libya.

74 BC—Romans conquer Libya.

6th century AD—Libya becomes part of the Byzantine empire.

643—Arabs under Amr Ibn al-As conquer Libya and spread Islam.

16th century—Libya becomes part of the Ottoman Empire, which joins the three provinces of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan into one regency in Tripoli.

1911-12—Italy conquers Libya.

1920s—Libyan resistance to Italian rule begins under the leadership of the Sanusi dynasty and Umar al-Mukhtar.

1942—Allies oust Italians from Libya, which is then divided between the French, who administer Fezzan, and the British, who control Cyrenaica and Tripolitania.

Independence and oil

1951—Libya becomes independent under King Idris al-Sanusi.

1956—Libya grants two American oil companies a concession of some 14 million acres.

1961—King Idris opens a 104-mile pipeline, which links important oil fields in the interior to the Mediterranean Sea and makes it possible to export Libyan oil for the first time.

The Gaddafi era

1969—King Idris deposed in military coup led by Col Muammar Gaddafi, who pursues a pan-Arab agenda by attempting to form mergers with several Arab countries, and introduces state socialism by nationalising most economic activity, including the oil industry.

1970—Libya orders the closure of a British airbase in Tobruk and the giant US Wheelus air force base in Tripoli; property belonging to Italian settlers nationalised.

1971—National referendum approves proposed Federation of Arab Republics (FAR) comprising Libya, Egypt and Syria. However, the FAR never takes off.

1972—Libya and Egypt agree on a merger, but this fails to materialise.

Institutionalised chaos

1973—Col Gaddafi declares a cultural revolution, which includes the formation of people's committees in schools, hospitals, universities, workplaces and administrative districts; Libyan forces occupy Aozou Strip in northern Chad.

1974—Libya and Tunisia agree on a union state—the Islamic Arab Republic—but this proves to be stillborn.

1977—Col Gaddafi declares a people's revolution, changing the country's official name from the Libyan Arab Republic to the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah and setting up revolutionary committees, which ushered in institutionalised chaos, economic decline and general arbitrariness.

1980—Libya and Syria agree on a merger, but this too fails to materialise; Libyan troops start intervening on a large scale in civil war in northern Chad.

Confrontation with the US

1981—US shoots down two Libyan aircraft which challenged its warplanes over the Gulf of Sirte, claimed by Libya as its territorial water.

1984—UK breaks off diplomatic relations with Libya after a British policewoman is shot dead outside the Libyan People's Bureau, or embassy, in London, while anti-Gaddafi protests were taking place.

1986—US bombs Libyan military facilities, residential areas of Tripoli and Benghazi, killing 101 people, and Gaddafi's house, killing his adopted daughter. The US said its raids were in response to alleged Libyan involvement in the bombing of a discotheque in Berlin frequented by American military personnel.

1988—Gaddafi orders the release of some political prisoners and embarks on limited economic liberalisation.

1989—Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia form the Arab Maghreb Union.


1992—UN imposes sanctions on Libya in an effort to force it to hand over for trial in the UK or the US two of its citizens who are suspected of involvement in the blowing up of a Pan-Am airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1989.

1994—Libya returns the Aozou Strip to Chad.

1995—Gaddafi expels some 30,000 Palestinians in protest at the Oslo accords between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel.

1999—Lockerbie suspects handed over for trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law; UN sanctions suspended; diplomatic relations with UK restored.

2000 September—Dozens of African immigrants are killed by Libyan mobs in the west of Libya who were said to be angry at the large number of African labourers coming into the country.

2001 31 January 2001—Special Scottish court in the Netherlands finds one of the two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi, guilty and sentences him to life imprisonment. Megrahi's co-accused, Al-Amin Khalifa Fahimah, was found not guilty and freed to return home.

2001 May—Libya sends in troops to help quell a coup attempt against President Ange-Felix Patasse of the Central African Republic.

2001 19 June—Libya says its troops have returned from the Central African Republic, except for a small contingent which were left behind at the request of President Ange-Patasse. . .to train the Central African Republic's army and the president's personal guard.