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Tuesday, October 13, 1998 Published at 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK

World: Africa

Libya radio: Africa in, Arabs out

Colonel Gaddafi addresses an audience in Chad in 1997

Martin Asser of the BBC Arabic Service assesses the latest facelift for Libyan radio

The Libyan external radio service has changed its name - another sign of the country's move away from its Arab roots and towards sub-Saharan Africa.

What was the Voice of the Greater Arab Homeland just a week ago is now the Voice of Africa.

Listeners were told of the change on Monday evening when Tripoli started to describe itself differently.

More than a re-launch

The Voice of Africa is likely to be much more than a re-launch of an old product.

It may mark the shift away from the eccentric Arab Nationalism and Islamism espoused by the government of Colonel Gaddafi since it came to power in 1969.

Since then, Libya's foreign policy has promoted links with mainly other Arab countries.

Although Colonel Gaddafi has also promoted unions and confederations with Saharan countries, almost all such plans have ended in failure.

Only the association of Sahel-Saharan states created in 1997 has been more successful.

Exporting the revolution

The other feature of Libya's involvement in Africa has been its military and economic support for rebel movements over the years.

But the colonel has tried to export the Libyan revolution wherever he could and Libya has also helped rebels as far afield as Ireland and the Philippines.

And the name change may be evidence that Libya acknowledges a debt towards Africa after its support in the Libyan dispute with the United States and Britain over the Lockerbie investigation.

Arab support limited

The Organisation of African Unity voted in June to break the UN air embargo imposed on Libya to secure the extradition of the two Libyans suspected of the Lockerbie bombing.

While the Arab League has also offered support for Libya's call for a third country trial, no Arab leader has broken the embargo.

Leaders from Chad, Niger, Gambia, Sudan, Mali, Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo have all flown in and out of Tripoli.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, by contrast, was careful to obtain the UN's permission before his visit three months ago.

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