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Libya fetes 40th anniversary of Kadafi coup

September 02, 2009|Associated Press

TRIPOLI, LIBYA — Libya staged a lavish spectacle Tuesday, parading white-robed horsemen and gold-turbaned dancers as jets streaked overhead to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought Moammar Kadafi to power in the oil-rich nation.

The four-day festivities that got underway were designed to highlight the volatile leader's acceptance on the world stage, but were overshadowed by new controversy about the return of the only man convicted of the 1988 Pan Am airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. Though African leaders are holding a summit here to coincide with the celebrations, most Western leaders stayed away.

The Libyan leader kicked off the celebrations before dawn, a start coinciding with the beginning of the coup, with a feast at a former U.S. air base.

Addressing the audience, Kadafi said that as a young Libyan lieutenant he'd been barred from entering the base by an American soldier.

"I told the soldier, 'You'll see what the future has in store,' " he said. "I don't think the American soldier quite measured the scope of my words."

Kadafi, 67, toppled Libya's king in a bloodless coup Sept. 1, 1969, and has been at the helm of the North African country ever since.

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