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Libya-Relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe





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Libya Index

During the early years of Qadhafi's regime, Libya pursued a genuinely nonaligned policy. Qadhafi perceived Soviet imperialism to be as great a threat to Libya in the politico-economic sphere as Western hegemony. Furthermore, communism's atheism was antithetical to Qadhafi's religious beliefs. Qadhafi approved of the 1972 Egyptian expulsion of Soviet advisers and condemned the fifteenyear Iraqi-Soviet friendship pact signed the same year.

Nevertheless, the Soviet Union, anticipating potential benefits from cultivating the newly established regime in Tripoli, quickly extended recognition three days after the coup. Notwithstanding the RCC's suppression of local communist elements and its strident anticommunist rhetoric, the Soviets viewed with satisfaction the regime's gradually increasing anti-Western orientation. After it was obliged to withdraw Soviet personnel from Egypt in 1972, the Soviet Union's interest in Libya heightened significantly. When the Western powers stopped selling arms to Libya in 1974, the first Soviet arms sale to Qadhafi was concluded in December of that year.

A major arms deal was concluded between Libya and the Soviet Union in 1975, costly enough that it apparently necessitated reductions in spending on social welfare and economic development. However, Libya denied reports in the Egyptian press and elsewhere that the agreement granted the Soviet Union military bases on Libyan territory. As of 1987, these denials appeared to have been truthful, although reportedly around 3,500 Soviet and East European military advisers were stationed in Libya (see Foreign Military Assistance , ch. 5). Libya's arms purchases, which by 1987 had far exceeded the needs of its small armed forces, led some observers to conclude that Libya was serving as an entrepôt for weapons destined for other points in Africa in which the Soviet Union was involved. But Libya's military debt to Moscow, estimated in 1986 at US$4 to US$6 billion, continued to be a source of difficulty in bilateral relations.

Libya also has negotiated numerous economic, commercial, and cultural agreements with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Agreements involving the exchange of Libyan oil for technical expertise and equipment have been made with Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), and Yugoslavia. East European countries also have contributed a significant number of medical personnel to Libya's health care program (see Medical Care , ch. 2). In addition, the East Germans have played a key role in the late 1970s and 1980s in Libya's domestic intelligence field. Libya also has economic agreements with Romania but ties have been strained because of the latter's relatively cordial relationship with Israel.

Libyan-Soviet relations improved during the 1980s because both countries opposed the American-sponsored Middle East peace process. The Soviet Union was opposed primarily because of its lack of a role in the negotiations, but Libya considered the 1978 Camp David accords as a betrayal of long-standing Arab and Palestinian aspirations. In view of the wide ideological gulf and policy differences between the two nations, the Soviet-Libyan relationship has been based primarily on mutual self-interest. Libya needed a source of arms and a counterbalance to the growing United StatesEgyptian alliance. For the Soviet Union, Libya was an important source of hard currency (it was estimated that Libyan weapons purchases in 1980 represented 10 percent of Soviet hard-currency earnings), an irritant to its Western superpower rival, and a potentially useful destabilizer of the regional status quo.

Although the Libyan-Soviet relationship continued to be close in the 1980s, Qadhafi was far too independent to be a submissive protegé, despite his dependence on Moscow for military hardware. Instead, he insisted on following his own vision in domestic and international affairs. Many of his beliefs conflicted with Soviet doctrines. For example, Qadhafi's Third Universal Theory conflicted with the Marxist tenets of class warfare and the vanguard role of the proletariat.

The lack of effective Soviet support to Libya during and after the United States raid in April 1986 underlined Moscow's reluctance to risk a confrontation with Washington by supporting Qadhafi too strongly. It was reported that the Soviets withheld vital intelligence information from Libya during the confrontation in the Gulf of Sidra. Moscow, however, reportedly was embarrassed by the ineffectiveness of Libya's Soviet-supplied air defenses.

Data as of 1987



BackgroundThe Italians supplanted the Ottoman Turks in the area around Tripoli in 1911 and did not relinquish their hold until 1943 when defeated in World War II. Libya then passed to UN administration and achieved independence in 1951. Following a 1969 military coup, Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-QADHAFI began to espouse his own political system, the Third Universal Theory. The system is a combination of socialism and Islam derived in part from tribal practices and is supposed to be implemented by the Libyan people themselves in a unique form of "direct democracy." QADHAFI has always seen himself as a revolutionary and visionary leader. He used oil funds during the 1970s and 1980s to promote his ideology outside Libya, supporting subversives and terrorists abroad to hasten the end of Marxism and capitalism. In addition, beginning in 1973, he engaged in military operations in northern Chad's Aozou Strip - to gain access to minerals and to use as a base of influence in Chadian politics - but was forced to retreat in 1987. UN sanctions in 1992 isolated QADHAFI politically following the downing of Pan AM Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. During the 1990s, QADHAFI began to rebuild his relationships with Europe. UN sanctions were suspended in April 1999 and finally lifted in September 2003 after Libya accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing. In December 2003, Libya announced that it had agreed to reveal and end its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and to renounce terrorism. QADHAFI has made significant strides in normalizing relations with Western nations since then. He has received various Western European leaders as well as many working-level and commercial delegations, and made his first trip to Western Europe in 15 years when he traveled to Brussels in April 2004. The US rescinded Libya's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism in June 2006. In January 2008, Libya assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2008-09 term. In August 2008, the US and Libya signed a bilateral comprehensive claims settlement agreement to compensate claimants in both countries who allege injury or death at the hands of the other country, including the Lockerbie bombing, the LaBelle disco bombing, and the UTA 772 bombing. In October 2008, the US Government received $1.5 billion pursuant to the agreement to distribute to US national claimants, and as a result effectively normalized its bilateral relationship with Libya. The two countries then exchanged ambassadors for the first time since 1973 in January 2009. QADHAFI in February 2009 took over as chairman of the African Union for the 2009-10 term; in September 2009, a Libyan took over the year-long presidency of UN General Assembly.
LocationNorthern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Tunisia
Area(sq km)total: 1,759,540 sq km
land: 1,759,540 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Geographic coordinates25 00 N, 17 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 4,348 km
border countries: Algeria 982 km, Chad 1,055 km, Egypt 1,115 km, Niger 354 km, Sudan 383 km, Tunisia 459 km

Coastline(km)1,770 km

ClimateMediterranean along coast; dry, extreme desert interior

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Sabkhat Ghuzayyil -47 m
highest point: Bikku Bitti 2,267 m
Natural resourcespetroleum, natural gas, gypsum
Land use(%)arable land: 1.03%
permanent crops: 0.19%
other: 98.78% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)4,700 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)0.6 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 4.27 cu km/yr (14%/3%/83%)
per capita: 730 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardshot, dry, dust-laden ghibli is a southern wind lasting one to four days in spring and fall; dust storms, sandstorms
Environment - current issuesdesertification; limited natural fresh water resources; the Great Manmade River Project, the largest water development scheme in the world, is being built to bring water from large aquifers under the Sahara to coastal cities
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - notemore than 90% of the country is desert or semidesert
Population6,310,434
note: includes 166,510 non-nationals (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 33% (male 1,064,866/female 1,019,790)
15-64 years: 62.7% (male 2,033,478/female 1,920,755)
65 years and over: 4.3% (male 133,092/female 138,453) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 23.9 years
male: 24 years
female: 23.8 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)2.17% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)25.15 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)3.45 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)NA (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 78% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 2.2% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.96 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 21.05 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 23.21 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 18.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 77.26 years
male: 74.98 years
female: 79.65 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)3.08 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Libyan(s)
adjective: Libyan
Ethnic groups(%)Berber and Arab 97%, other 3% (includes Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Turks, Indians, and Tunisians)

Religions(%)Sunni Muslim 97%, other 3%
Languages(%)Arabic, Italian, English, all are widely understood in the major cities

Country nameconventional long form: Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
conventional short form: Libya
local long form: Al Jamahiriyah al Arabiyah al Libiyah ash Shabiyah al Ishtirakiyah al Uthma
local short form: none
Government typeJamahiriya (a state of the masses) in theory, governed by the populace through local councils; in practice, an authoritarian state
Capitalname: Tripoli (Tarabulus)
geographic coordinates: 32 53 N, 13 10 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions25 municipalities (baladiyat, singular - baladiyah); Ajdabiya, Al 'Aziziyah, Al Fatih, Al Jabal al Akhdar, Al Jufrah, Al Khums, Al Kufrah, An Nuqat al Khams, Ash Shati', Awbari, Az Zawiyah, Banghazi, Darnah, Ghadamis, Gharyan, Misratah, Murzuq, Sabha, Sawfajjin, Surt, Tarabulus, Tarhunah, Tubruq, Yafran, Zlitan; note - the 25 municipalities may have been replaced by 13 regions
Constitutionnone; note - following the September 1969 military overthrow of the Libyan government, the Revolutionary Command Council replaced the existing constitution with the Constitutional Proclamation in December 1969; in March 1977, Libya adopted the Declaration of the Establishment of the People's Authority

Legal systembased on Italian and French civil law systems and Islamic law; separate religious courts; no constitutional provision for judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage18 years of age; universal and technically compulsory
Executive branchchief of state: Revolutionary Leader Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-QADHAFI (since 1 September 1969); note - holds no official title, but is de facto chief of state
head of government: Secretary of the General People's Committee (Prime Minister) al-Baghdadi Ali al-MAHMUDI (since 5 March 2006)
cabinet: General People's Committee established by the General People's Congress
elections: national elections are indirect through a hierarchy of people's committees; head of government elected by the General People's Congress; election last held March 2009 (next to be held NA)
election results: NA

Legislative branchunicameral General People's Congress (760 seats; members elected indirectly through a hierarchy of people's committees)

Judicial branchSupreme Court

Political pressure groups and leadersother: Arab nationalist movements; anti-QADHAFI Libyan exile Movement; Islamic elements
International organization participationABEDA, AfDB, AFESD, AMF, AMU, AU, CAEU, COMESA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Flag descriptionplain green; green is the traditional color of Islam (the state religion)

Economy - overviewThe Libyan economy depends primarily upon revenues from the oil sector, which contribute about 95% of export earnings, about one-quarter of GDP, and 60% of public sector wages. The expected weakness in world hydrocarbon prices throughout 2009 will reduce Libyan government tax income and constrain Libyan economic growth in 2009. Substantial revenues from the energy sector coupled with a small population give Libya one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa, but little of this income flows down to the lower orders of society. Libyan officials in the past five years have made progress on economic reforms as part of a broader campaign to reintegrate the country into the international fold. This effort picked up steam after UN sanctions were lifted in September 2003 and as Libya announced in December 2003 that it would abandon programs to build weapons of mass destruction. UN Sanctions against Libya were lifted in September 2003. The process of lifting US unilateral sanctions began in the spring of 2004; all sanctions were removed by June 2006, helping Libya attract greater foreign direct investment, especially in the energy sector. Libyan oil and gas licensing rounds continue to draw high international interest; the National Oil Company set a goal of nearly doubling oil production to 3 million bbl/day by 2012. Libya faces a long road ahead in liberalizing the socialist-oriented economy, but initial steps - including applying for WTO membership, reducing some subsidies, and announcing plans for privatization - are laying the groundwork for a transition to a more market-based economy. The non-oil manufacturing and construction sectors, which account for more than 20% of GDP, have expanded from processing mostly agricultural products to include the production of petrochemicals, iron, steel, and aluminum. Climatic conditions and poor soils severely limit agricultural output, and Libya imports about 75% of its food. Libya's primary agricultural water source remains the Great Manmade River Project, but significant resources are being invested in desalinization research to meet growing water demands.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$87.72 billion (2008 est.)
$82.83 billion (2007 est.)
$78.44 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$89.92 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)5.9% (2008 est.)
5.6% (2007 est.)
5.9% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$14,200 (2008 est.)
$13,700 (2007 est.)
$13,300 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 1.7%
industry: 70.9%
services: 27.4% (2008 est.)
Labor force1.64 million (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 17%
industry: 23%
services: 59% (2004 est.)
Unemployment rate(%)30% (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line(%)7.4% (2005 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)9.3% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $58.04 billion
expenditures: $35.22 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)10.4% (2008 est.)
6.3% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$26.66 billion (31 December 2008)
$18.04 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$4.264 billion (31 December 2008)
$3.192 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$NA (31 December 2008)
$NA (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$NA
Economic aid - recipientODA, $24.44 million (2005 est.)

Public debt(% of GDP)4% of GDP (2008 est.)
8.8% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - productswheat, barley, olives, dates, citrus, vegetables, peanuts, soybeans; cattle
Industriespetroleum, iron and steel, food processing, textiles, handicrafts, cement

Industrial production growth rate(%)6.2% (2008 est.)

Current account balance$37.39 billion (2008 est.)
$28.45 billion (2007 est.)
Exports$64.5 billion (2008 est.)
$46.97 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)crude oil, refined petroleum products, natural gas, chemicals
Exports - partners(%)Italy 38%, Germany 12%, France 7.4%, Spain 6.9%, US 6.4%, Switzerland 4.6% (2008)
Imports$26.55 billion (2008 est.)
$17.7 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)machinery, semi-finished goods, food, transport equipment, consumer products
Imports - partners(%)Italy 22.2%, China 9.3%, Germany 8.6%, Turkey 6.1%, Tunisia 5.8%, South Korea 4.7%, US 4.1%, France 4.1% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$92.51 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$79.6 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$6.223 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$4.837 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$11.23 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$8.775 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$5.15 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$3.7 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Exchange ratesLibyan dinars (LYD) per US dollar - 1.2112 (2008 est.), 1.2604 (2007), 1.3108 (2006), 1.3084 (2005), 1.305 (2004)

Currency (code)Libyan dinar (LYD)

Telephones - main lines in use1.033 million (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular4.828 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: telecommunications system is state-owned and service is poor, but investment is being made to upgrade; state retains monopoly in fixed-line services; mobile cellular telephone system became operational in 1996; multiple providers for a mobile telephone system that is growing rapidly; combined fixed line and mobile telephone density is approaching 100 telephones per 100 persons
domestic: microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, cellular, tropospheric scatter, and a domestic satellite system with 14 earth stations
international: country code - 218; satellite earth stations - 4 Intelsat, NA Arabsat, and NA Intersputnik; submarine cables to France and Italy; microwave radio relay to Tunisia and Egypt; tropospheric scatter to Greece; participant in Medarabtel (2008)
Internet country code.ly
Internet users323,000 (2008)
Airports137 (2009)
Pipelines(km)condensate 776 km; gas 2,860 km; oil 6,987 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 100,024 km
paved: 57,214 km
unpaved: 42,810 km (2003)

Ports and terminalsAs Sidrah, Az Zuwaytinah, Marsa al Burayqah, Ra's Lanuf, Tripoli, Zawiyah
Military branchesArmed Peoples on Duty (APOD, Army), Libyan Arab Navy, Libyan Arab Air Force (Al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Jamahiriya al-Arabia al-Libyya, LAAF), Libyan Coast Guard (2008)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)17 years of age (2004)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 1,682,183
females age 16-49: 1,611,001 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 1,466,578
females age 16-49: 1,409,684 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 60,710
female: 58,219 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)3.9% of GDP (2005 est.)
Disputes - internationalLibya has claimed more than 32,000 sq km in southeastern Algeria and about 25,000 sq km in the Tommo region of Niger in a currently dormant dispute; various Chadian rebels from the Aozou region reside in southern Libya

Refugees and internally displaced personsrefugees (country of origin): 8,000 (Palestinian Territories) (2007)
Trafficking in personscurrent situation: Libya is a transit and destination country for men and women from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Libya is on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to address trafficking in persons in 2007 when compared to 2006, particularly in the area of investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenses; Libya did not publicly release any data on investigations or punishment of any trafficking offenses (2008)
Electricity - production(kWh)23.98 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)22.17 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)104 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)77 million kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)1.875 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)273,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)1.542 million bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)575.3 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)43.66 billion bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)15.9 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)5.5 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)10.4 billion cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)1.54 trillion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.3% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS10,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deathsNA
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 82.6%
male: 92.4%
female: 72% (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 17 years
male: 16 years
female: 17 years (2003)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)2.7% of GDP (1999)








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