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Tuesday, August 31, 1999 Published at 19:29 GMT 20:29 UK

World: Africa

Analysis: Settling down after 30 years

Gaddafi is switching his attentions from Arabism to African affairs

Regional analyst Roger Hardy examines whether Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi is settling down into harmless middle age.

On 1 September, 1969 a young army officer called Muammar Gaddafi addressed the nation.

The Libyan coup took the world by surprise and the revolution proved as unconventional as its leader.

[ image: His radio announcement in 1969 shocked the world]
His radio announcement in 1969 shocked the world
Colonel Gaddafi used his country's oil wealth to intervene in conflicts around the globe.

His fiery speeches, female bodyguards and his habit of arriving in a country uninvited - and then storming out at some perceived slight - all this left friend and foe wondering what he would get up to next.

But 30 years on, some think he might be settling down

Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Libya, says the position Colonel Gaddafi occupied in the world has certainly changed.

"I think that's partly due to his more temperate attitude towards publicity and self-publicity," he said.

Irksome Lockerbie sanctions

Also UN sanctions imposed because of Libya's alleged role in the Lockerbie affair have now been suspended.

In December 1988 a Pan-Am plane blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing all those on board.

[ image: 270 died in the Lockerbie crash]
270 died in the Lockerbie crash
British and American officials became convinced of Libyan involvement.

But Colonel Gaddafi initially refused to hand over two Libyan suspects for trial.

UN sanctions - including the cutting of all air links - were imposed.

They were not nearly as stringent as those imposed on Iraq - but the Libyan leader found them irksome nevertheless.

The air embargo did not prevent Libya selling oil, but it did made it difficult to import spare parts for the oil installations.

The sanctions were suspended earlier this year, under a deal which allowed the two Libyan suspects to stand trial in a third country, the Netherlands.

For Britain and its European partners, the agreement has paved the way for the normalisation of relations.

And as Italian, German, French and British oil companies consolidate their position in Libya - US companies are likely to pressurise the US Government as they lose out on what will become a valuable market.

Demonising Gaddafi

At the political level though, the Americans are not ready for normalisation. Demonising Colonel Gaddafi, like demonising Saddam Hussein of Iraq, has become a habit.

[ image: His unpredictable and revolutionary ideas have kept journalists busy]
His unpredictable and revolutionary ideas have kept journalists busy
But the old allegation that Colonel Gaddafi is a patron of international terrorism now appears to have less substance.

Former ambassador Oliver Miles says that even in a US State Department report earlier this year on international terrorism, it was said that he had not been found supporting international terrorism for a number of years.

"There has been some change - and I think it's more emphasis on internal development, on the welfare of people in Libya, and less interest perhaps in the outside world," Mr Miles says.

And if the famously unpredictable colonel has settled down, there's one group of people who will surely be disappointed - the journalists who have written about his colourful and often quirky adventures for the last 30 years.

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