“During the 1920s and 1930s Italy under Mussolini expended large sums to expand its colonial control over Libya with the development of towns and roads for the benefit of Italian settlers. By 1928, having broken their earlier promise to the Senussi to colonize only the coastal regions, the Italians had moved to complete the conquest of the whole country. In 1935 Mussolini launched his program of `demographic colonialization’ to establish about 150,000 Italian settlers in Libya, equivalent to nearly 20 per cent of the country’s population, by the outbreak of World War II. During the war Libya was fought over first by the British and Italians and then by the British and Germans…When the war ended Italy had been defeated and Libya was occupied by British troops…It was a vast under populated desert country soon to be designated the world’s poorest nation by the newly formed United Nations. A Senussi force had fought against the Italians alongside the British; in return Britain had pledged that Libya would not be returned to Italian rule…The UN General Assembly voted to make Libya an independent kingdom by January 1952. The pro-British Sidi Muhammad Idris al-Mahdi al-Sanussi, grandson of the man who created the Senussi sect, became King Idris I and declared Libya independent on 24 December 1951.
“The government of King Idris was pro-British and pro-Western…The discovery of oil in 1959 transformed Libya’s economic fortunes although the descent upon the country of a range of international oil companies over the succeeding ten years must have seemed like another colonial invasion even if this time an economic one. Against such a background it is unsurprising that the militant young revolutionaries who came to power in 1969 should at once have proclaimed their anti-Western credentials…”
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