Tuesday, August 31, 1999 Published at 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Gaddafi: Three decades in pictures
Muammar Gaddafi was a signals captain when he seized power in a bloodless military coup on 1 September 1969.
Seeing himself as the "custodian of Arabism" he never gained the support or trust of other Arab leaders such as President Sadat of Egypt and President Assad of Syria.
Full of revolutionary ideas he has always provided good copy for journalists - though he often keeps them waiting for weeks.
The US bombed Libya in 1986 in retaliation for his support for "terrorist" groups.
Always a showman, his fondness for dressing up ranges from designer gear, to uniforms and traditional costumes.
He made friends with Egypt in 1989, but his drive for radical positions on Arab issues isolated him.
The BBC's John Simpson interviewed a limping Colonel Gaddafi in 1998 in a traditional bedouin tent.
Fed up with years of rejection by Arab leaders, he has turned towards Africa, his new spiritual home.
Colonel Gaddafi's support for the anti-apartheid struggle ensured a warm friendship with his "brother leader" Nelson Mandela.
With Lockerbie sanctions suspended, his transformation from Arabist revolutionary into an African elder statesman looks likely.