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Country Index: Libya

Country Index: Libya

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Country Index: Libya


Wars and Treaties


Battleaxe, Operation, 15-17 June 1941
Brevity, Operation, 15-16 May 1941
Crusader, Operation, 18 November-20 December 1941
Gazala, battle of, 26 May-14 June 1942
Mersa Brega or El Agheila, battle of, 12-18 December 1942
Perpetual, Operation, 11-12 November 1942
Rommel's First Offensive, March 24-May 30 1941
Rommel's Second Offensive, 21 January- 4 February 1942
Sonnenblume (Sunflower), Operation, February-March 1941
Tobruk, siege of, April-December 1941


Weapons, Armies & Units


History of Libya

Libya's history covers its rich mix of ethnic groups added to the indigenous Berbers/Amazigh people. Amazigh have been present throughout the entire history of the country. For most of its history, Libya has been subjected to varying degrees of scholar control, from Europe, Asia, and Africa. The modern history of independent Libya, as reflected in the many revolutions denoted under many moons began before Romantic time or Justinian scribing.

The history of Libya comprises six distinct perspectives: Ancient Libya, the Roman era, the Islamic era, Ottoman rule, Italian rule, and the Modern era.


Libya entered 2020 as a divided nation, with competing political and military factions operating redundant and often conflicting systems of governance. The Government of National Accord (GNA) controlled western Libya around the capital Tripoli, while the Interim Government (IG), backed by the Libyan National Army (LNA), controlled most of the east, central and southern parts of the country. These entities operate on separate budgets, with the Central Bank of Libya divided into parallel branches with the Central Bank of Libya in Tripoli controlling the money supply and foreign reserves and the branch in the east mimicking its currency printing function.

For the most part of 2020, the performance of the Libyan economy was the worst in recent record. In January 2020, the country was hit by a nine-month oil blockade, which cut oil output to about 228,000 barrels per day. This was less than a sixth of 2019 and comparable to country’s lows during the civil war after 2014 but it manifested itself much faster than that. The blockade was debilitating for Libya’s acutely undiversified economy, which counts on oil and gas for over 60% of aggregate economic output and over 90% of both fiscal revenue and merchandise exports: revenue lost from the blockade amounted to around US$11 billion for the year, according to the Central Bank in Tripoli. Including non-oil effects of the oil blockade, the total fiscal revenues stood at 23 billion Libyan dinar (LYD) in 2020, some 40% of the total revenue earned in 2019. These problems were conflated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which inflicted further economic and social dislocation on a war-torn country with little in the way of basic health services and infrastructure.

The plunge in revenues knocked government spending. The Tripoli-based government cut total expenditures by 22% to LYD 36.2 billion in 2020 from LYD 46.1 billion in 2019. Wages and salaries (Chapter 1 expenditures) accounted for the bulk of expenditures for the year LYD 21.9 billion or 61% of total expenditure. Cuts of 40% salaries for high-ranking political officials were announced, starting in January 2020, and that of all public sector employees by 20% from April 2020, but it is not clear whether these decisions were implemented or not. Subsidies (Chapter 4 expenditures) reached LYD 5.6 billion, or 16% of total expenditures. Development expenditures (Chapter 3 expenditures) were miniscule for the year—LYD 1.8 billion or 5% of total expenditure, compared to LYD 4.6 billion in 2019. All capital expenditure projects for 2020 were almost completely scrapped.

A recent array of negotiations and agreements points to a way forward after a decade of military conflict and political strife. Following the ceasefire agreement between the GNA and the LNA, the U.N. Support Mission in Libya confirmed in mid-November 2020 that the GNA and the LNA had agreed to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in December 2021. The breakthrough was achieved by 75 Libyan delegates at the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Tunisia, with a three-member Presidency Council, headed by Mohamed al-Mnefi, and a Prime Minister, Abdelhamid Dabeiba, given the task of forming a Government of National Unity that will in turn prepare Libya for general elections. In addition to these developments, several economic agreements have also come to fruition.

There is cautious optimism of recovery and healing but downside risks abound. The ceasefire agreement of October 2020 stipulated that all military units and armed groups withdraw from the front lines and foreign fighters and mercenaries transfer to Tripoli and Benghazi before leaving Libya by January 23, 2021. The country’s underlying political and economic division, however, has complex roots and competing international influences can be a decisive factor. Major uncertainties are associated with these dynamics and projecting future economic trends is, therefore, a daunting task.

Current Account and Foreign Exchange

Overall, the Libyan economy contracted by about 31% in 2020. The precipitous fall in its hydrocarbon output damaged its external balance and fiscal position in 2020, filtering through to weaker government spending, reduced private consumption, and lower imports. The economic collapse also had adverse effects on the non-hydrocarbon economy: water shortages were prevalent, with reports of the sabotage of water wells. Power outages persisted throughout the year only 13 of 27 power plants were functioning. As late as mid-December 2020, three months after ports had been reopened, the government was still urging consumers to stop queueing at gasoline stations.

The collapse of oil revenues strained the ability of the monetary and fiscal authorities to defend Libya’s currency and on December 16, for the first time in five years, the board of directors of the Central Bank of Libya agreed to devalue it from LYD 1.00 = SDR 0.5175 to LYD 1.00 = SDR 0.156, effective as of January 3, 2021, with the equivalent rate to the US dollar, LYD 4.48 = US$1.00 using US$1.44 = SDR 1.00 rate. The new rate aims to apply to all government, commercial, and personal foreign exchange transactions and largely remove the growing gap between the parallel market and official rates, rendering an FX surcharge unnecessary.

The task of rationalizing fiscal policy appears formidable. Libya’s public finances are fundamentally unsustainable. Reflecting its almost singular reliance on oil and gas, hydrocarbon revenues had made up 85% of total government revenues from 2015 to 2017, before a tax on foreign exchange transactions was introduced as a temporary measure in 2018, grabbing a 40% share of total revenues and reducing the share of hydrocarbon revenues to a still hefty 55% share in 2019.

The heavy dependence of government finances on hydrocarbon revenues will likely persist until Libya creates a more diversified economy, a gargantuan task even for the advanced-economy oil and gas producers of the Gulf Cooperation Council that have accelerated their economic diversification efforts with ambitious Vision policies and programs in recent years. More strikingly, Libya’s expenditure structure is highly rigid even as its hydrocarbon revenues are volatile: its wage bill, which has accounted for 61% of total expenditures, makes it among the costliest and least cost-efficient public sectors in the world. Subsidies that cover the gamut of fuel, electricity, water, sewage, and sanitation have amounted to 16% of total expenditures in 2020.

PR Political Rights

Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 0.00 0 4.00 4

There were two rival governments in Libya as of 2019, neither of which had a current electoral mandate. The GNA, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, was based in Tripoli and had nominal control over the surrounding territory in the country’s northwest. It was formed as part of the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), an internationally brokered accord meant to end the political gridlock and armed conflict that had started in 2014 between factions loyal to the Tubruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), elected that year, and the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC), which predated and rejected the outcome of the 2014 elections. The LPA text granted a one-year mandate to the GNA upon its approval by the HoR, with a one-time extension if necessary. However, the HoR never granted its approval. Instead, an interim government affiliated with the HoR persisted in the east, under the protection of Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA), renamed the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) during 2019.

UNSMIL sought to resolve the rift by convening a national conference of diverse Libyan stakeholders in April 2019, but the effort was upended when Haftar’s forces launched a campaign to seize the capital and the rest of western Libya.

Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 0.00 0 4.00 4

Under the LPA, the unicameral, 200-seat HoR was to remain in place as the interim legislature. The agreement also created the High Council of State (HCS), a secondary consultative body composed of some members of the rival GNC. However, the HoR never formally approved the LPA’s provisions or recognized the GNA.

Members of the HoR were elected in 2014 in polls that were marked by violence and drew the participation of only about 15 percent of the electorate. Its mandate formally expired in 2015 while it unilaterally extended its tenure, it has rarely achieved a quorum in practice. HCS members were originally elected in 2012, as part of the GNC elections.

Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 0.00 0 4.00 4

An August 2011 constitutional declaration, issued by an unelected National Transitional Council, serves as the governing document for the ongoing transitional period between the revolution against al-Qadhafi and the adoption of a permanent constitution. Despite some legal developments, Libya lacks a functioning electoral framework in practice.

An electoral law was published in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, and members of the High National Election Commission (HNEC) were appointed. A Constitutional Drafting Assembly elected in 2014 voted to approve a draft constitution in 2017. In the fall of 2018, the HoR approved a law containing a framework for a constitutional referendum, along with several accompanying amendments to the 2011 constitutional declaration. It then submitted the former, the Referendum Law, to the HNEC, but there was speculation that the new law and amendments would face legal challenges. There was no substantive progress on the constitution in 2019.

CL Civil Liberties

There is a diverse array of Libyan media outlets based inside and outside the country. However, most are highly partisan, producing content that favors one of the country’s political and military factions, and in many cases promoting propaganda, hate speech, or disinformation in coordination with foreign backers. The civil conflict and related violence by criminal and extremist groups have made objective reporting dangerous, and journalists are subject to intimidation, arbitrary detention, and physical abuse by both sides in the conflict. Among other incidents during 2020, in May an LAAF-controlled military court in Benghazi sentenced freelance journalist Abuzreiba al-Zway to 15 years in prison for working with a Turkey-based television station. Despite the risks, some independent journalists and outlets have made efforts to engage in fact-based reporting, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 1.00 1 4.00 4

Religious freedom is often violated in practice. Nearly all Libyans are Sunni Muslims, but Christian and other minority communities have been attacked by armed groups, including local affiliates of the Islamic State (IS) militant group. In eastern Libya, hard-line Salafi Muslims aligned with Haftar’s forces control Benghazi’s mosques and religious programming. Salafi militants, who reject the veneration of saints, have destroyed or vandalized Sufi Muslim shrines with impunity.

Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 1.00 1 4.00 4

There are no effective laws guaranteeing academic freedom. The armed conflict has damaged many university facilities and altered classroom dynamics for example, professors can be subject to intimidation by students who are aligned with militias.

D4. Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 1 / 4

Although the freedom of private discussion and personal expression improved dramatically after 2011, the ongoing hostilities have taken their toll, with many Libyans increasingly withdrawing from public life or avoiding criticism of powerful figures. Numerous examples of kidnappings and killings of activists, politicians, and journalists have added to the general deterrent effect. Conditions for personal expression are considerably worse in the LAAF-controlled east than in the west, where residents have somewhat more freedom to criticize the GNA, though violent reprisals for critical speech have been reported in both areas.

Among other cases during 2020, a rapper was allegedly kidnapped in Tripoli in July after he released a song that criticized armed groups. In November, masked assailants in Benghazi murdered Hanan al-Barassi, a lawyer and activist who had criticized corruption within the LAAF on social media.

Lockerbie plane bombing

1988 December - Lockerbie bombing - an airliner is blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, allegedly by Libyan agents.

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 two of its citizens suspected of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing.

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.

Libya: Ceasefire, planned elections, offer rare window of hope, Security Council hears

On the heels of recent positive developments, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Libya pointed to renewed hope for peace in the conflict-affected country, and stability across the wider region, in a briefing to the Security Council on Friday.

Ján Kubiš, who is the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Libya and heads the UN support mission in the country (UNSMIL), outlined progress made since the agreement of a ceasefire in October 2020, the launch of a Libyan Political Dialogue Forum and the start of a process of reunifying its State institutions.

11- من إحاطة المبعوث الخاص للأمين العام للأمم المتحدة إلى ليبيا، رئيس البعثة، يان كوبيش، لـ #مجلس_الأمن اليوم حول أخر التطورات في #ليبيا
From the SE @UNJanKubis' remarks to the UN Security Council on the situation in Libya today:

&mdash UNSMIL (@UNSMILibya) May 21, 2021

He called for all parties to redouble their commitment to Libya’s peace process and stay the course ahead of critical elections in December.

Strides and stalls

Welcoming the continued holding of Libya’s ceasefire agreement, Mr. Kubiš said confidence-building between the parties continues notwithstanding occasional clashes between armed groups.

In recent months, hundreds of prisoners and detainees were released by both sides, with releases taking place almost weekly in different parts of the country during the month of Ramadan.

Efforts also continue toward deploying UNSMIL monitors in support of the Libyan-led and Libyan-owned Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism.

However, progress on key issues such as the reopening of a main coastal road and the withdrawal of foreign mercenaries and foreign fighters – laid out in the October ceasefire agreement and endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 2570 (2021) – has been stalled.

In addition, he said, a recent report of the panel of experts tasked with overseeing painted a bleak picture of non-compliance with Libya’s arms embargo.

A critical election

“It is up to the Libyan authorities and institutions to use the opportunities of the newly regained nascent unity and sovereignty to continue the political transition,” said Mr. Kubiš.

Outlining progress made in preparing for the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 24 December, including the production of 2.3 million voter cards, he nevertheless said many steps remain.

The House of Representatives has the responsibility to clarify the constitutional basis for elections and adopt the necessary electoral legislation by 1 July, allowing the country’s High National Elections Commission enough time to prepare ahead of voting.

A draft legislation on direct presidential elections is ready to be presented to the House of Representatives, according to its Speaker. Mr. Kubiš warned that election preparations will be futile if the law is not adopted.

Mercenaries and foreign fighters

As Libya continues along the road towards elections and institution-building, the presence and activities of thousands of mercenaries, foreign fighters and armed groups remains a critical threat – not just to Libya, but to the wider region.

In his briefing today, Mr. Kubiš cited recent violent incidents in Chad, including clashes with armed groups that killed the country’s President, Idriss Déby Itno, in April.

The high mobility of terrorists and armed groups, as well as the movement of migrants and refugees trafficked across porous borders by organized criminal networks, all increase the risk of instability.

In that context, Mr. Kubiš said foreign fighters and armed groups with origins in the region must be withdrawn in an orderly fashion, accompanied by disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes and coupled with efforts to address the root causes of conflict.

In the Country of Men

  • Novels
  • Africa
  • 1960s & '70s
  • Debuts (first books and first novels)
  • Adult Books From A Child's Perspective
  • Middle-Eastern Writers
  • In Time of War & The Effects of War

Book Reviewed by:
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About this Book


A Short History of Libya

Libya is located on the Mediterranean coast in the North of Africa to the West of Egypt (map). Much of the country lies within the Sahara Desert but the coastal areas have a Mediterranean climate with arable land in the plateaus. The earliest known settlers of the area were the Berber people, known as Libyans to the Greeks. Around the 7th century BC the maritime culture known as Phoenicians or Canaanites colonized the eastern section of the country which they called Cyrenaica and the Greeks colonized the west, which they called Tripolitania. Both parts eventually came under the control of the Roman Empire until the Empire's decline, after which the area was invaded by Arab Forces (7th century AD). Then, from the 16th century until World War I, both Cyrenaica and Tripolitania were nominally part of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1911, following the outbreak of hostilities between Italy and the Ottoman Empire, Italy occupied Tripoli. Italian sovereignty was recognized in 1912, although fighting continued. In 1934, Italy united Tripolitania and Cyrenaica into the colony of Libya.

After the fall of Tripoli in 1943, the area came under Allied administration. In 1951, Libya gained its independence following a UN vote and became a constitutional and hereditary monarchy under King Idris, formerly Emir of Cyrenaica (who had led the Libyan resistance to the Italian occupation between the two World Wars). Seven years later oil was discovered, transforming the impoverished country's economy, but most of the wealth stayed in the hands of a few, leading to resentment and unrest.

In 1969, 27-year-old,Muammar al-Qaddafi deposed the king, assumed the role of colonel, and established a pro-Arabic, anti-Western, anti-Israeli, Islamic republic (97% of the population are Sunni Muslims). Over the next two decades, Libya increasingly distanced itself from the West and was accused of committing mass acts of state sponsored terrorism, such as the Berlin discotheque terrorist bombing that killed two American servicemen, in response to which the US launched an aerial bombing attack of selected targets in 1986. In 1991, two Libyan intelligence agents were indicted for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, and six other Libyans were put on trial in absentia for the 1989 bombing of UTA Flight 772.

In 2003, Libya started to make dramatic policy changes towards the West, announcing its decision to stop building weapons of mass destruction and pay US $3 billion in compensation to the families of Pan Am flight 103 and UTA Flight 772. In 2006, the US fully restored diplomatic relations with Libya and its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism was lifted. In 2007, Libya was elected to a non-permanent seat on the UN's Security Council.

Muammar Gaddafi ruled the country from 1969 and the Libyan Cultural Revolution in 1973 until he was overthrown and killed in the 2011 Libyan Civil War. Two authorities initially claimed to govern Libya: the House of Representatives in Tobruk and the 2014 General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli, which considered itself the continuation of the General National Congress, elected in 2012. After UN-led peace talks between the Tobruk and Tripoli governments, a unified interim UN-backed Government of National Accord was established in 2015, and the GNC disbanded to support it. Since then, a second civil war has broken out, with parts of Libya split between the Tobruk and Tripoli-based governments and various tribal and Islamist militias.

This article relates to In the Country of Men. It first ran in the February 21, 2008 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

The Sahara Desert, volcanoes, oases, and nomadic peoples make Libya both stunning and intriguing. Equally breathtaking are the ancient cities along the Mediterranean coastline, home to most of Libya’s 6.5 million people. These cities showcase a diverse history marked with ancient Greek, Roman, and Ottoman influence. This water-poor but oil-rich country’s earliest inhabitants were Berber tribes, most of which have blended into the Arab majority. Today Libya is experiencing extreme turmoil that has absolutely devastated the nation.

Vast oil reserves made Libya one of Africa’s wealthiest nations, yet nearly one third of its people live in poverty. The death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 during the Arab Spring (a series of populist uprisings in many Arab countries from 2010-2012) exacerbated a history of conflict. A pluralistic democratic state was promised, but instead the country was further divided by war. Numerous oil ports have been captured by militia, and the Islamic State found safe-haven in the midst of this massive instability. Violent attacks and suicide bombings throughout Libya have brought further death and destruction. Around half a million people have been displaced within Libya as a result of this unraveling chaos.

Today this nation is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a Christian. Ninety-seven percent of Libyans are Muslim. Although foreigners are legally permitted to worship, it is illegal for them to share the Gospel with Libyans. Missionaries are arrested, and most Christian expatriates have left. The 2015 video documenting the gruesome beheading of twenty-one believers in Libya by the Islamic State led even more Christians to flee. Now, there are no more than an estimated twenty believers left in the whole country. Yet, there are Libyans who left during Gaddafi's reign who long to return and share the Gospel. Radio, satellite television, and the internet offer effective ways to evangelize and disciple Libyans. But Bibles and other Christian materials are still greatly needed.


On 19 December 2003, the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Libya) agreed to eliminate all materials, equipment, and programs aimed at the production of nuclear or other internationally proscribed weapons. Libya's then leader Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi admitted that, in contravention of its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Libya had pursued a nuclear weapons program. In 2004, the United States and the United Kingdom dismantled Libya's nuclear weapons infrastructure with oversight from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

After renouncing its clandestine nuclear program in late 2003, Libya sought to establish a nuclear power infrastructure for electricity production, seawater desalination, and the production of medical isotopes. [1] However, Libya's nuclear power aspirations remain in the research and development stages. It remains unclear how the outcome of the Libyan Civil War of 2011 and the toppling of the Qadhafi regime will affect the future direction of the country's nuclear program. [2]


1968 to 1990: Program Beginnings

While still under the rule of the pro-Western King Idris, Libya signed the NPT in July 1968. Even though Idris was overthrown in a 1969 coup led by the Revolutionary Command Council headed by Qadhafi, Libya ratified the NPT in 1975. However, many reports indicate that Qadhafi, whose rise to power was partly driven by resentment over the 1967 defeat of the Arabs by Israel, began seeking a nuclear weapons capability shortly after taking power and adopting a strong anti-Israel stance.

Due to Libya's relatively low level of technical development, these nuclear efforts focused on foreign suppliers. In 1970, for example, Libya reportedly made an unsuccessful attempt to purchase nuclear weapons from China. [3] And in 1978, Libyan agents allegedly tried to buy nuclear weapons from India. [4] There are also many reports of nuclear dealings during the 1970s between Libya and Pakistan. These allegedly involved Libyan assistance to Pakistan in acquiring access to uranium ore concentrate from neighboring Niger in return for Pakistani nuclear assistance to Libya. [5] Whether these dealings laid the basis for later Libya-Pakistan nuclear cooperation remains unclear.

Evidence released by the IAEA in 2004 suggests that during the 1970s and 1980s, Libya decided to pursue both the uranium- and plutonium-based pathways to nuclear weapons. Steps were taken in the 1970s to gain access to uranium ore, uranium conversion facilities, and enrichment technologies that together would have enabled Libya to produce weapons-grade uranium. This activity was conducted covertly and in violation of IAEA safeguards. Libya pursued foreign supplies of uranium ore concentrate (UOC), for example. Reports indicate that during the 1970s, Libya imported 1,200 tons of UOC from French-controlled mines in Niger without declaring it to the IAEA, as required by the NPT. [6] Libya admitted to the IAEA in 2004 that it had actually imported 2,263 metric tons of uranium ore concentrate from 1978 to 1981, but only declared the import of 1,000 metric tons. [7] The remaining 1,263 metric tons were thus not subject to IAEA safeguards and could be used in covert nuclear activities.

Libya also worked to acquire uranium conversion facilities, which would have enabled it to convert the UOC to a form more suitable for enrichment. In 1982, Libya attempted to purchase a plant for manufacturing uranium tetrafluoride from the Belgian firm Belgonucleaire. U.S. analysts suspected that the intended use for the plant was to produce uranium hexafluoride, the feedstock for a centrifuge uranium enrichment program (like that pursued by Pakistan). At the time, Libya had no declared nuclear facilities that required uranium tetrafluoride, and the purchase was refused. [8] This refusal did not discourage Libya, however, which in 2004 admitted to the IAEA that it had acquired a pilot-scale uranium conversion facility in 1984. [9] The IAEA report does not, however, identify the country that supplied Libya with this facility. The plant was fabricated in portable modules in accordance with Libyan specifications. Libya received these modules in 1986, but then placed them in storage until 1998. [10] Libya has also admitted that during the 1980s it conducted undeclared laboratory-scale uranium conversion experiments at the Tajoura Nuclear Research Center. [11] Along these same lines, Libya has now reported exporting several kilograms of UOC in 1985 to a "nuclear weapon state" for processing into various uranium compounds. Libya subsequently received a variety of compounds back from the state in question, including 39 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride. At the time, this export was also not reported to the IAEA by either Libya or the nuclear weapon state. [12] The IAEA report does not name the nuclear weapon state involved in this transaction, but David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security said the Soviet Union and China were the most likely suspects, although he added, "I think it's hard to know. It was a time when people weren't scrutinizing these things very carefully." [13]

Libya also sought uranium enrichment equipment and technology during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1973, Libya tried to purchase 20 calutrons to enrich uranium from the French company Thomson-CSF. The deal, apparently supported by top company officials, was blocked by the French government because of the obvious proliferation risk of exporting enrichment technology to a non-nuclear weapon state. [14] Later, in the 1980s, a "foreign expert" began a research and design program at the Tajoura Nuclear Research Center in Libya aimed at producing gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment. [15] The "foreign expert" was reportedly a former employee of a German firm. [16] However, Libya has told the IAEA that by the time the "foreign expert" concluded his work in 1992, Libya was not yet able to produce an operating centrifuge, and no centrifuge experiments involving nuclear materials had been conducted. However, Libya had acquired technical expertise useful for the next stage of centrifuge development and design. [17] According to the IAEA, after the German expert left, the uranium enrichment program lost momentum, and was not reinvigorated until after 1995. [18]

As another way to build its nuclear expertise, however, Libya also pursued "peaceful" cooperation with the Soviet Union, under IAEA safeguards. The main result of Soviet-Libyan nuclear cooperation was the completion in 1979 of a 10MW research reactor at Tajoura. This reactor offered Libya the opportunity to explore plutonium production technology, which Libya did, while evading IAEA safeguards intended to detect such activities. Between 1984 and 1990, Libya produced several dozen small uranium oxide and uranium metal targets, a number of which were irradiated in the Tajoura reactor to produce radioisotopes. Thirty-eight of these targets were dissolved, and the radioisotopes extracted in hot cells. Libya has reported to the IAEA that very small amounts of plutonium were extracted from at least two of the targets. [19] Presumably the data gathered in these experiments would have proven useful if Libya had decided to pursue plutonium production more actively.

Libya made efforts in the 1970s and 1980s to buy a reactor larger than the one at Tajoura. In 1976, negotiations were held between France and Libya for the purchase of a 600MW reactor. A preliminary agreement was reached, but strong objections by the international community led France to cancel the project. [20] In the 1970s and 1980s, Libya discussed the construction of a nuclear power plant with the Soviet Union. At one point, the Belgian firm Belgonucleaire was in discussions to provide engineering support and equipment for this proposed project, but in 1984, U.S. pressure led the firm to refuse the contract. [21] Discussions with the Soviet Union about power reactor projects continued, but never produced a final agreement. By the late 1980s, Libya's nuclear program began to be hampered by economic sanctions prompted by Qadhafi's support of terrorism. In 1986, for example, the United States imposed economic sanctions on Libya, which were later expanded in 1992 and 1996. [22]

1990 to 2003: Nuclear Weapons Program Intensifies

By the early 1990s Libya's support of international terrorism, and in particular the 1988 bombing of a U.S. airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, had prompted the imposition of UN economic sanctions. These sanctions restricted Libya's foreign trade, and presumably restricted the funds available to the Libyan nuclear program. Nevertheless, in the early 1990s, reports indicate that Libya tried to exploit the chaos generated by the collapse of the Soviet Union to gain access to former Soviet nuclear technology, expertise, and materials. In 1992, for example, an official of the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, one of Russia's leading nuclear research centers, claimed that Libya had unsuccessfully tried to recruit two of his colleagues to work at the Tajoura Nuclear Research Center in Libya. [23] Other reports also suggested that Russian scientists had been hired to work on a covert Libyan nuclear weapons program.

Throughout the 1990s, Qadhafi renewed calls for the production of nuclear weapons in Libya [24] and pursued new avenues for nuclear technology procurement, [25] while publicly, if grudgingly, supporting the nuclear nonproliferation regime. At the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, Libya initially rejected an indefinite extension because Israel had never joined the treaty however, Libya eventually supported the extension. In 1996, Qadhafi stated that Arab states should develop a nuclear weapon to counter Israel's presumed nuclear weapons capability. Nonetheless, in April 1996 Libya signed the African-Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty. Later that same year, Libya voted against the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty at the UN General Assembly because it did not provide a deadline for nuclear disarmament. (Libya eventually signed the CTBT in November 2001 and ratified it in January 2004.) [26]

According to the IAEA Director General's February 2004 report, "[i]n July 1995, Libya made a strategic decision to reinvigorate its nuclear activities," including gas centrifuge uranium enrichment. In 1997, foreign manufacturers, including Pakistan, provided 20 pre-assembled L-1 centrifuges and components for an additional 200 L-1 centrifuges and related parts. [27] One of the 20 pre-assembled rotors was used to install a completed single centrifuge at the Al Hashan site, which was first successfully tested in October 2000. Libya reported to the IAEA that no nuclear material had been used during tests on the L-1 centrifuges. [28]

In 1997, Libya began receiving nuclear weapons-related aid from Dr. A.Q. Khan, the chief architect of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program and confessed proliferator of nuclear technologies to several countries of concern, including Iran and North Korea. This cooperation continued until fall 2003, when Khan's clandestine collaboration with these countries became public following Libya's disclosures about its efforts to build nuclear weapons. In 1997, Khan supplied Libya with the 20 assembled L-1 centrifuges, [29] and components for an additional 200 more intended for a pilot facility. In 2001, Libya received almost two tons of UF6 while some reports claim that Pakistan provided the UF6, [30] others cite evidence that it originated in North Korea. [31] IAEA sources believe that amount of UF6 is consistent with the requirements for a pilot enrichment facility. If enriched, the UF6 could produce a single nuclear weapon. [32] In late 1997, Libya also renewed its nuclear cooperation with Russia, and in March 1998 Libya signed a contract with the Russian company Atomenergoeksport for a partial overhaul of the Tajoura Nuclear Research Center. [33]

In late 2000, Libya's nuclear activities accelerated. Libyan authorities have informed the IAEA that at that time, Libya began to order centrifuges and components from other countries with the intention of installing a centrifuge plant to make enriched uranium. Libya also imported equipment for a fairly large precision machine shop (located at Janzour) and acquired a large stock of maraging steel and high strength aluminum alloy to build a domestic centrifuge production capability. [34] In September 2000, Libya received two L-2 centrifuges (European-designed centrifuges more advanced than the L-1). In late 2000, Libya began to progressively install 9-machine, 19-machine, and 64-machine L-1 centrifuge cascades into a large hall at Al Hashan. [35] Only the 9-centrifuge machine was completely assembled in 2002. [36] Libya also ordered 10,000 L-2 centrifuges from Pakistan. By late December 2002, component parts for the centrifuges began arriving in Libya. [37] However, in October 2003, U.S. intelligence agencies seized a subsequent consignment of centrifuge-related equipment bound for Libya in a northern Mediterranean port. [38] Investigations revealed that many of these components were manufactured by the Scomi Precision Engineering SDN BHD plant in Malaysia with "roles played by foreign technical, manufacturing, and transshipment experts, including A.Q. Khan and his associates at A.Q. Khan Laboratories in Pakistan, B.S.A. Tahgir in Malaysia and Dubai, and several Swiss, British, and German nationals." [39]

Libya sought not only the capability to enrich uranium to weapon-grade levels, but also the know-how to design and fabricate nuclear weapons. [40] In either late 2001 or early 2002, A.Q. Khan provided Libya with the blueprint for a fission weapon. [41] According to the February 2004 IAEA report, Libya acknowledged receiving from a foreign source in late 2001 or early 2002, documentation related to nuclear weapon design and fabrication. "The documents presented by Libya include a series of engineering drawings relating to nuclear weapons components, notes, (many of them handwritten) related to the fabrication of weapon components. The notes indicate the involvement of other parties and will require follow-up." [42] U.S. intelligence analysts believe the documents included a nuclear weapon design that China tested in the late 1960s and allegedly later shared with Pakistan. Reportedly, the design documents produced by Libya were transferred from Pakistan, contained information in both Chinese and English and set forth the design parameters and engineering specifications for constructing an implosion weapon weighing over 1,000 pounds, that could be delivered using an aircraft or a large ballistic missile. [43] Libya ultimately told IAEA investigators that it had no national personnel competent to evaluate these designs at that time, and would have had to ask the supplier for help if it had decided to pursue a nuclear weapon. [44]

Late 2003 to 2008: Renunciation of Nuclear Weapons

At the same time that Libya pursued centrifuge technology and nuclear weapons designs, Qadhafi began to make overtures to the West in the hopes of having economic and other sanctions lifted. Reportedly, Libya had established secret communications regarding terrorist activities and WMD with the United States as early as 1999. [45] According to some analysts, the September 11, 2001 attacks, which Qadhafi denounced, and the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq increased Libya's desire to make peace with the United States. [46] In March 2003, days before the invasion of Iraq, Qadhafi's personal envoys contacted President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair about Libya's willingness to dismantle all WMD programs. Subsequently, at Qadhafi's direction, Libyan officials provided British and U.S. officers with documentation and additional details on Libya's chemical, biological, nuclear, and ballistic missile activities. [47] In August 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for the 1988 bombing of a U.S. commercial airliner, Pan Am 103, over Lockerbie, Scotland, and agreed to pay millions of dollars to each of the victims' families. In response, the UN Security Council voted to end international sanctions, but the Bush administration abstained, saying that Libya still had to answer questions about its WMD programs and meddling in African conflicts. [48]

Despite its ongoing negotiations with the West, Libya continued to procure nuclear technologies from other countries. In October 2003, British and U.S. ships operating pursuant to the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative intercepted a German cargo ship heading to Libya from Dubai with a cargo of centrifuge parts allegedly based on Pakistani designs. [49] Following the seizure of the ship, Libya reportedly allowed U.S. and British officials to visit 10 previously secret sites and dozens of Libyan laboratories and military factories to search for evidence of nuclear fuel cycle-related activities, and for chemical and missile programs. Finally, on 19 December 2003 Qadhafi announced his commitment to disclose and dismantle all WMD programs in his country. In a letter to the UN Security Council, Libya reaffirmed its commitment to the NPT, agreed to the IAEA Additional Protocol (allowing for additional and more intrusive inspections of nuclear-related sites), and agreed to receive inspections teams to verify its new commitments. [50] President Bush stated that with Qadhafi's announcement, "Libya has begun the process of rejoining the community of nations." [51] One news source quotes Qadhafi as claiming that his decision to forego WMD programs was based on national security and economic interests. In an address to the Libyan People's National Congress, Qadhafi reportedly said, "Today it becomes a problem to have a nuclear bomb. At the time, it was maybe the fashion to have a nuclear bomb. Today, you have no enemy. Who's the enemy?" [52]

Several factors probably contributed to Libya's decision to renounce its nuclear program. First, 30 years of economic sanctions significantly limited oil exports and hurt the Libyan economy. Second, Libya's nuclear program progressed fairly slowly and at a great cost to the country, both economically and politically. [53] Third, the elimination of WMD was a prerequisite to normalizing relations with the West, and ending Libya's pariah status reportedly had become particularly important to Qadhafi. Fourth, according to some U.S. officials, Libya wanted to avoid Iraq's fate. [54] Finally, the October 2003 seizure of the ship with centrifuge-related cargo and ensuing investigations may have persuaded Libya that it would have difficulty with future WMD procurement efforts. [55]

Following the December 2003 announcement, a Libyan delegation informed the IAEA Director General that "Libya had been engaged for more than a decade in the development of a uranium enrichment capability." [56] Libya admitted to importing natural uranium, centrifuge and conversion equipment, and nuclear weapons design documents. However, Libyan officials said that the enrichment program was at an early stage of development, that no industrial scale facilities had been built, and that Libya lacked the technical know-how to interpret the weapons design documents. Libya acknowledged that some of these activities put it in violation of its IAEA Safeguards Agreement. With Libya's consent, in December 2003 and January 2004 the IAEA Director General and Agency teams made several visits to 18 locations related to possible nuclear weapons-related activities and began the process of verifying Libya's previously undeclared nuclear materials, equipment, facilities, and activities. The Agency concluded that "initial inspections of these locations did not identify specific facilities currently dedicated to nuclear weapon component manufacturing." [57] However, it also noted that further analytical and field activities would be necessary to determine how far Libya had progressed in weapons design activities.

Pursuant to understandings with the United Kingdom and the United States, Libya agreed to transfer to the United States "sensitive design information, nuclear weapon related documents, and most of the previously undeclared enrichment equipment, subject to Agency verification requirements and procedures." [58] On 22 January 2004, Libya's nuclear weapons design information, including the Chinese blueprint purchased from Pakistan, was sent to the United States. On 26 January U.S. transport planes carried 55,000 pounds of documents and equipment related to Libya's nuclear and ballistic missile programs to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The nuclear portion of this shipment "included several containers of uranium hexafluoride (used as feedstock for enrichment) 2 P-2 [L-2] centrifuges from Pakistan's Khan Research Laboratories and additional centrifuge parts, equipment, and documentation." [59] In March 2004, over 1,000 additional centrifuge and missile parts were shipped out of Libya. [60] IAEA inspectors tagged and sealed most of the equipment sent to the United States, and assisted with its evaluation.

At the same time, Libya took steps to improve its participation in international nonproliferation regimes. Libya ratified the CTBT in January 2004, and on 18 February 2004, Libya gave the IAEA written confirmation of its intention to conclude an Additional Protocol with the Agency and to act as if the protocol had entered into force on 29 December 2003. [61]

On 8 March 2004, Russia, the United States, and the IAEA removed 16 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel from Libya's Tajoura Nuclear Research Center the HEU fuel was airlifted by a Russian company to Dimitrovgrad, where it would be down-blended into low-enriched uranium fuel. The United States would ultimately complete conversion of the Tajoura Soviet-supplied IRT-1 research reactor to the use of low enriched uranium fuel in October 2006. [62]

On 20 February 2004, the IAEA Director General issued a report on the implementation of Libya's IAEA Safeguards Agreement. [63] The report found that, "Starting in the early 1980s and continuing until the end of 2003, Libya imported nuclear material and conducted a wide variety of nuclear activities, which it had failed to report to the Agency as required under its Safeguards Agreement." [64] Such violations included failure to declare the import and storage of UF6 and other uranium compounds failure to declare the fabrication and irradiation of uranium targets, and their subsequent processing, including the separation of a small amount of plutonium and failure to provide design information for the pilot centrifuge facility, uranium conversion facility, and hot cells associated with the research reactor. The report also touched on support from foreign sources to Libya's program, noting that, "As part of verifying the correctness and completeness of Libya's declarations, the Agency is also investigating. the supply routes and sources of sensitive nuclear technology and related equipment and nuclear and non-nuclear materials. . it is evident already that a network has existed whereby actual technological know-how originates from one source, while the delivery of equipment and some of the materials have taken place through intermediaries, who have played a coordinating role, subcontracting the manufacturing to entities in yet other countries." [65]

On 10 March 2005, the IAEA Board of Governors adopted a resolution commending Libya for its cooperation with the Agency, but noting with concern the breach of its Safeguards Agreement and its acquisition of nuclear weapons designs. [66] As a result of Libya's cooperation with the IAEA, on 23 April 2005 President Bush lifted most of the remaining restrictions on doing business with Libya, although he did not remove Libya from the State Department's list of nations that support terrorism. For the first time in decades, the United States would have a diplomatic mission in Tripoli and U.S. oil companies, barred from Libya for 18 years, would have an opportunity to develop Libya's rich oil fields. President Bush suggested that Colonel Qadhafi was beginning to meet his goal of acceptance by the international community and that his actions might serve as a model for North Korea and Iran: "Through its actions, Libya has set a standard that we hope other nations will emulate in rejecting weapons of mass destruction and in working constructively with international organizations to halt the proliferation of the world's most dangerous systems." [67]

In September 2008, IAEA Director General Mohamed El-Baradei announced that due to its "cooperation and transparency" during the Agency's investigation, Libya would only be subject to routine IAEA inspections. [68] The conclusion of the IAEA investigation enabled Libya to engage in bilateral agreements Libya has concluded nuclear cooperation agreements with France, Argentina, Ukraine, and Canada. It also concluded a comprehensive agreement with Russia, which included offers to design and construct a power reactor, supply reactor fuel, and provide technology related to medical isotopes and nuclear waste disposal. [69] In 2010, Libyan Nuclear Energy Corporation (NEC) Chairman Ali Muhammad al-Fashut announced that a "series of practical measures had been taken to begin projects aimed at using nuclear energy to produce electricity and purify water." [70]

Recent Developments and Current Status

As a result of the Libyan Civil War of 2011 and ongoing political violence it appears highly unlikely that Libya will move forward with the establishment of a civilian nuclear energy program in the foreseeable future. Since Qadhafi's death and the conflict's formal end in October 2011, the security situation in post-Qadhafi Libya has remained highly volatile. Amid this unrest, foreign suppliers are unlikely to take advantage of the cooperation agreements their respective governments signed with the Qadhafi regime.

Of most immediate concern is the security of Libya's legacy nuclear materials. Since Qadhafi's overthrow, the IAEA has continued to inspect Libya's remaining nuclear-related stockpiles. According to reports, an IAEA team was scheduled to visit Libya in December 2013 to investigate and verify the storage of 6,400 barrels of uranium yellowcake at a former military facility, controlled by a Libyan army battalion. [71] While the presence of unsafeguarded materials in Libya is disconcerting, according to a UN panel of experts investigating the issue the Libyan yellowcake "posed no significant security risk," as it would necessitate "extensive processing" prior to reaching a form suitable for civil or weapons applications. [72]


  1. Gardajora

    Calm down!

  2. Fytch

    Bravo, it's just another sentence :)

  3. Everleigh

    Never hit someone who is lying down, because he can get up. Hammer and Sickle emblem. Mow and Hammer! From a shampoo ad: My hair used to be dry and lifeless, but now it's damp and wiggling. Picture: "Ivan the Terrible makes a control shot."

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