Libya Table of Contents

Britain's relations with postrevolutionary Libya were strained because of the close political, economic, and military relationship the British had cultivated with King Idris. After Qadhafi came to power, Britain suspended sales of military equipment, and Libya nationalized British Petroleum's interests, ostensibly in retribution for perceived British complicity in the Iranian occupation of three Persian Gulf islands. Libya supported Malta during that country's negotiations regarding British military base leases. Libya also allegedly supported the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Nevertheless, in an October 1978 address in Tripoli, Qadhafi stated that there were no differences so severe as to preclude the establishment of good relations with Britain.

However, British-Libyan relations deteriorated markedly during the 1980s. A critical point was reached in 1984 when a British policewoman was killed by a gunman inside the Libyan People's Bureau (embassy) in London. This incident led to the breaking of diplomatic relations. Further discord followed the arrest of six British citizens in Libya, evidently in retaliation for the arrest of four Libyans in Manchester on charges stemming from March 1984 bombings in London and Manchester. Relations plummeted when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher permitted United States aircraft to use British bases on April 15, 1986, for a strike on Libyan cities.

More about the Government of Libya.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress