officially Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jam 0101; h 012B; riyyah
Country, North Africa.
Area: 678,400 sq mi (1,757,000 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 5,368,000. Capital: Tripoli . Berbers, once the major ethnic group, have been largely assimilated into the Arab culture. Italians, Greeks, Jews, and sub-Saharan Africans are among the other ethnic groups. Languages: Arabic (official), Hamitic (Berber). Religions: Islam (official), small percentage Christianity. Currency: dinar. All but two tiny fractions of Libya are covered by the Sahara : Tripolitania in the northwest and Cyrenaica in the northeast. Tripolitania is Libya's most important agricultural region and its most populated area. The production and export of petroleum are the basis of Libya's economy; other resources include natural gas, manganese, and gypsum. Livestock raising, including sheep and goats, is important in the north. Libya is a socialist state with one policy-making body; the head of government is the prime minister, but Muammar al-Qaddafi has been the de facto head of state and real power in Libya since 1970. The early history is that of Fezzan , Cyrenaica , and Tripolitania , which the Ottoman Empire combined under one regency in Tripoli in the 16th century. In 1911 Italy claimed control of Libya, and by the outbreak of World War II (193945) 150,000 Italians had immigrated there. The scene of much fighting in the war, it became an independent state in 1951 and a member of the Arab League in 1953. The discovery of oil in 1959 brought wealth to Libya. A decade later a group of army officers led by al-Qaddafi deposed the king and made the country an Islamic republic. Under al-Qaddafi, Libya supported the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and allegedly provided aid for international terrorist groups. Intermittent warfare with Chad that began in the 1970s ended with Libya's defeat in 1987. International relations in the 1990s were dominated by the consequences of a U.S. trade embargo (endorsed by the UN) that was imposed on Libya for its purported connection to terrorism.