Libya is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to power with a parade, lavish dance spectacles and fighter jets streaking overhead.
But the celebrations, designed to show the former pariah state’s acceptance on the world stage, come as Libya is immersed in yet another controversy, this time over the return of the Lockerbie bomber.
Col Gaddafi kicked off the celebrations this morning, timed to coincide with the coup, with a feast at a former US air base that was turned into a Libyan military camp. The celebrations are expected to last four days.
A parade is to be held this afternoon while a large-scale celebration is expected to take place in a Tripoli stadium in the evening after the end of the Ramadan fast.
Libya invited many heads of state, but in a sign of the still touchy relationship many western countries have with Libya and concern over how to treat the Mediterranean country following the Lockerbie bomber’s release, many sent lower-level representatives or stayed away.
Col Gaddafi came to power with a military coup in 1969, and was ostracised for decades over accusations of supporting international terrorism.
The United States restored ties with Libya in 2006 after Col. Gaddafi agreed to resolve the Lockerbie issue including paying compensation to the victims’ families.
The move culminated a process that began three years earlier when Col. Gaddafi surprised the world by agreeing to dismantle his country’s weapons of mass destruction programs and have them shipped for storage in the United States.