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History, Kingdom Established

Fezzan, Tripolitania, unitary system, Libyan government, American oil companies

A national assembly, composed of delegates from Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Fezzan, convened at Tripoli in 1950 and nominated Emir Sayid Idris al-Sanusi, head of the Cyrenaican government and leader of the Sanusi brotherhood, to serve as king of an independent Libya. The assembly promulgated the Libyan constitution on October 7, 1951. On December 24 the emir, as King Idris I, proclaimed the independence of the federal United Kingdom of Libya. Elections were held in February 1952, and parliament met for the first time in March. Libya joined the Arab League in 1953 and the United Nations (UN) in 1955. In 1963 the constitution was amended to give women the right to vote, and the federal system was replaced by a unitary system.

Britain and France agreed to extend financial aid to the government in exchange for the right to maintain their military installations in Libya. The United States, wishing to retain the vast Wheelus Field air base near Tripoli, promised economic and technical assistance. Libya established diplomatic relations with the USSR in 1956 but rejected Soviet offers of economic aid. In 1964 negotiations were begun between Libya and the United States and Britain for the withdrawal of troops and the closing of air bases. The last contingents of British and U.S. troops left in 1970.

Libya was not a participant in the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and neighboring Arab countries, but it strongly supported its Arab League neighbors in opposition to Israel after the war. Libya also gave financial aid to Jordan and the United Arab Republic, as Egypt was then called, to rebuild their economies.

Beginning in the mid-1950s, development of the oil industry made rapid progress and turned Libya into a boom country. In 1956 the Libyan government granted two American oil companies a concession of some 5,668,000 hectares (14 million acres). In 1961 Idris I opened a 167-km (104-mi) pipeline linking important oil fields in the interior to the Mediterranean Sea. The new facility made possible the export of Libyan oil for the first time. In the late 1960s numerous oil companies of various nations had been granted concessions, and oil production reached more than 85 million barrels per month.

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