Published December 19, 2003
Facts about the North Africa nation of Libya.
GEOGRAPHY: Nation of nearly 680,000 square miles, slightly larger than Alaska; located on Mediterranean coast of North Africa. Bordered by Egypt and Sudan to east, Tunisia and Algeria to west, Chad and Niger to south. Capital: Tripoli (search). Aside from a 1,100-mile Mediterranean coastline, mostly barren desert plains and plateaus.
POPULATION: About 5.5 million, predominantly Arab-Berber. Official language: Arabic. Religion: Sunni Muslim, 97 percent.
ECONOMY: Oil accounts for virtually all exports. Industry suffered from U.N. sanctions imposed in 1992 that were lifted earlier this year. Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, gypsum. Only 2 percent of land is arable.
POLITICS: Led by Col. Moammar Gadhafi, who seized power at age 27 in a September 1969 military coup that toppled King Idris, ruler since independence from Italy in 1951. Libya under Gadhafi helped arm revolutionary groups in Egypt and Sudan in the mid-1970s and has been widely accused of aiding terrorists of various nationalities.