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Wednesday, September 1, 1999 Published at 21:06 GMT 22:06 UK

World: Africa

Libyans honour Gaddafi

Colonel Gaddafi is using the celebrations to call for African unity

Libyans are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the revolution of 1 September 1969, headed by Muammar Gaddafi, with a central square in the capital covered in giant birthday candles.

BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson: "Revolutionary chic is a thing of the past"
Everyone from African chanters to bands of Libyan boy scouts have been thronging the streets of Tripoli to honour Colonel Gaddafi, who led the military coup that toppled King Idris in 1969.

Many towns and cities have been draped in the revolutionary white and green colours of the peoples republic.

Giant portraits of the country's leader adorn the streets, while state television has broadcast past speeches of the colonel.

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The commemorations are the first since international sanctions were suspended in April after Libya handed over two suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

The 1988 explosion over the Scottish village of Lockerbie killed 270 people, most of them American or British.

Colonel Gaddafi accused other Arab countries of failing to stand by him during his confrontation with the West over Lockerbie, and is now looking more to Africa.

Much of the focus in the media was on the visit by Jordan's King Abdullah II to join in the celebrations. King Abdullah met Gaddafi on his arrival and the leaders later held talks.

Many Arab and African leaders are expected in the country for celebrations, but the traditional revolutionary parade and a speech by Colonel Gaddafi have been postponed until the weekend to coincide with a special meeting of the Organisation of African Unity in Libya.

Colonel Gaddafi is expected to use the occasion to call for a United States of Africa.

The BBC's World Affairs editor, John Simpson, says the most noticeable thing about the anniversary is that the country is in the process of change.

He says the leader who has been appearing on the nation's TV screens appears to be subdued and thoughtful, by comparison with the fiery young army captain who seized power in 1969.

Human rights

Our correspondent says Colonel Gaddafi is no longer a patron for international terrorism and has succeeded in bringing the long years of international sanctions to an end.

The BBC's John Simpson reports on the changing face of Libya
But on the 30th anniversary, the human rights group Amnesty International has said Libya must improve its human rights record if it wants to end its international isolation.

"After three decades of gross human rights violations, even the most basic safeguards have yet to be put in place,'' the London-based group said in a statement.

"Libya must demonstrate to the international community respect for basic international standards of human rights,'' it added.

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