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1969: Bloodless coup in Libya

King Idris of Libya has been deposed in what appears to have been a bloodless coup.

A group of military officers have seized power and declared the country a republic. But the king, who is in Turkey, has dismissed the coup as "unimportant".

According to reports from the capital, Tripoli, troops and tanks converged on the city in the early hours of the morning.

Within two hours they had taken key positions and the royal palace, military and security headquarters were surrounded by 0500.

All communications with the outside world were cut and a curfew was imposed.

Britain's good relations

In Libya the king's heir, Crown Prince Hassan, has announced his support for the new regime, which the military junta has renamed the Libyan Arab Republic.

News of the coup came as a surprise to the British Government but officials said it would not harm Britain's good relations with Libya.

Egypt and Iraq have announced recognition of the new regime.

The Revolutionary Command Council which has now taken over running the country, has issued a statement declaring the aim of the revolution is "unity, freedom and socialism".

However, it also gave a warning that any attempt to overthrow the revolutionaries would be "crushed ruthlessly and decisively".

The coup appears to have been led by an Army officer called Colonel Saad ed-din Bushweir.

But it is not clear whether he has any political backing. King Idris has conducted recent purges against Palestinians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Syrians. He has also tried to purge the country of Baathists for conspiring against the state.

Britain is involved in extensive engineering projects in Libya and is also the country's biggest supplier of arms. The United States also has a large airbase in Libya.

In Context
The coup passed off with only a handful of shots being fired. The military junta's first action was to arrest the army chief of staff and the head of security.

King Idris, who had been suffering poor health, went to Greece.

Thousands took to the streets to demonstrate their support for the revolution. At the time, the coup was widely welcomed as an Arab nationalist reaction to the humiliating defeat of the Arab armies in the Six Day War with Israel in 1967 and to what were seen as the pro-Western policies and corruption of the monarchy.

On 8 September the new cabinet was announced. The commander in chief of the armed forces was named as Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, 27.

Colonel Gaddafi took the title of prime minister in January 1970. Initially he pursued a policy of Arab unity - proposing a series of mergers and federations with neighbouring countries.

But Libya's involvement in terrorism, notably the Lockerbie disaster, led to the breaking-off of diplomatic relations with the US and UK, only partly restored in late 2003 when Gaddafi announced Libya was abandoning its weapons of mass destruction programme. In May 2006 the US restored full diplomatic relations with Libya.


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