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Country, North Africa. Area: 686,127 sq mi (1,777,060 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 6,420,000. Capital: Tripoli. Imazighen, once the major ethnic group, have been largely assimilated into the predominant Arab culture; sub-Saharan Africans are among the other ethnic groups. Languages: Arabic (official); Italian and English are understood in the major cities. Religions: Islam (official; predominantly Sunni); also Christianity. Currency: Libyan dinar. The majority of Libya is covered by the Sahara. Tripolitania, in the northwest, is Libya's most important agricultural region and its most populated area. The production and export of petroleum are the basis of Libya's economy; other resources include natural gas, manganese, and gypsum. Livestock raising, including sheep and goats, is important in the north. Libya is an authoritarian state with one policy-making body; the head of government is the secretary of the General People's Committee (the prime minister), but Muammar al-Qaddafi has been the de facto head of state and real power in Libya since 1969. The early history is that of Fezzan, Cyrenaica, and Tripolitania, which the Ottoman Empire combined under one regency in Tripoli in the 16th century. In 1911 Italy claimed control of Libya, and by the outbreak of World War II (1939–45) 150,000 Italians had immigrated there. It was the scene of much fighting in the war. It became an independent state in 1951 and a member of the Arab League in 1953. The discovery of petroleum in the late 1950s brought wealth to Libya. A decade later a group of army officers led by Qaddafi deposed King Idris I and made the country an Islamic republic. Under Qaddafi, Libya supported the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and allegedly provided aid for international militant groups. Intermittent warfare with Chad that had begun in the 1970s ended with Libya's defeat in 1987. UN sanctions imposed on Libya in the 1990s for its purported connection to terrorism were lifted in 2003.
Variants of LIBYA
Libya officially Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriyyah
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Libya, visit Britannica.com.