Libya Celebrates Gaddafi Anniversary

Libya has started a week of massive celebrations to mark 40 years since the coup that brought Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to power. Jets have been flying over the capital Tripoli to prepare for a military parade which is due to start shortly. Hundreds of dancers and musicians will put on a show charting Libya's history, followed by a firework display. Several African and Arab leaders are attending the celebrations but Western leaders are staying away. This follows a political storm over the release and return to Libya of the only man jailed for the Lockerbie bombing.The BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli says there is an air of anticipation as the capital prepares for unprecedented festivities for Revolution Day. Col Gaddafi arrived in the city's Green Square, which is adorned with Libyan flags and banners, dressed in full military attire. He is seated behind bullet-proof glass on a huge stage, a tent-like structure with cascading white cloth, two seats away from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, our reporter says. A fireworks display, with pyrotechnics launched from ships off the coast of Tripoli with follow the parade and show. Celebrations will last for a total of six days. Col Gaddafi took power on 1 September 1969 after a bloodless coup against the king. A small group of military officers led by the then unknown 27-year-old army officer staged a coup against King Idris, who was exiled to Egypt. The new regime, headed by the Revolutionary Command Council, subsequently banned political parties. For years, Libya was ostracised by Western democracies who accused it of fostering terrorism abroad and displaying nuclear ambitions. But relations improved after Col Gaddafi renounced his pursuit of nuclear weapons in 2003. Libya also paid hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to victims of the Lockerbie bombing. But the only convicted bomber, Abdel Ali Mohammed al-Megrahi, was freed by the Scottish authorities on 20 August after he had served eight years of a life sentence for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, in which 270 people died. His subsequent hero's welcome in Tripoli generated anger in the US and UK. The British government has also been forced to deny reports that his release was linked to an oil deal. As Libya marks its anniversary, British authorities have published all correspondence with Scottish ministers over his release.