The vast, dry Sahara covers most of Libya, and the country has few natural resources. But the discovery of petroleum in 1959 injected huge sums of money into Libya's economy. The government of Libya used some of this wealth to improve farmland and provide services for the people.
Almost all of Libya's people are of mixed Arab and Berber ancestry and are Muslims. Until the early 1900's, Libya consisted of three separate geographical and historical regions. It became a united, independent country in 1951. Libya's official name is the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
Muammar Muhammad al-Qadhafi is Libya's head of state, but he holds no official title. In 1969, Qadhafi led a military revolt that overthrew the ruling monarchy.
Libya's government is based on popular assemblies. All Libyan citizens age 18 or older may vote and hold public office. About 1,000 local groups elect a representative to the General People's Congress (GPC), which officially runs the national government. The General People's Congress meets every year to consider legislation and to select the members of the General People's Committee, which develops national policy.
Libya is divided into 24 political units called baldiyas. A local People's Congress administers each baldiya. Political parties have not been permitted since 1952. In 1971, the Arab Socialist Union was formed as Libya's only political alliance. But a number of underground opposition groups exist.
Population and ancestry. About 80 percent of Libya's people live along the Mediterranean coast or in the upland regions just south of the coast. More than 90 percent of Libya's population is of mixed Arab and Berber ancestry....