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World News

February 22, 2011

Arab world mainstay's power suddenly at risk


It's as if he were saying, "If I lose, you lose the country," Djebbar said.

Instead of a country with one of Africa's highest per capita incomes — about $13,800, according to the CIA — Libyans could find their vast oil wealth being fought over by various tribal groups.

Over the years, Gadhafi used his country's vast oil wealth to support militant movements and their leaders — from Abu Nidal and other Palestinian factions to Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal and the Irish Republican Army.

After the United States decided that Libya was behind a 1986 bombing of a West Berlin disco, killing two American servicemen, a Turkish woman and wounding 200 others, it unleashed airstrikes on targets in Tripoli and Benghazi killed 41 people, including Gadhafi's adopted daughter.

But the man President Ronald Reagan famously dubbed the "mad dog of the Middle East" was undaunted, launching in 1988 an operation that led to the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed all 269 people on board and 11 on the ground.

The incident may have cast Gadhafi — and Libya — as a pariah, but that ostracism only served to harden his resolve.

Gadhafi was also said to have had Mansour Kikhia, a former foreign minister and dissident, kidnapped while he was in Cairo for a human rights conference in 1993. Kikhia was said to have later been killed and his body melted down in a steel plant.

Much of his energy went into opposing Israel. In 1987, at an Arab summit in Algiers, he wore a white glove on his right hand to avoid contact with those who dealt with Israel. He also heaped scorn on his fellow Arab leaders. In one instance, he sat contemptuously at an Arab League meeting in the center of the room smoking a cigar.

The outbursts abroad were for domestic consumption. At home, he continued refining the revolution, drawing attention to perceived injustices in Libya with little concern that he and his family may be guilty of some of them.

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