Middle East

Libya independence: King Idris anniversary celebrated

Libya has celebrated the anniversary of its independence from Italy and France - for the first time in 42 years.

The United Libyan Kingdom was formed on 24 December 1951 under King Idris. But after Col Muammar Gaddafi seized power in 1969, only the coup date in September was allowed to be marked.

In Tripoli, crowds marched from Martyrs Square to the former Royal Palace, chanting "No more Gaddafi!"

Separately, the economy minister who had served under Col Gaddafi resigned.

Taher Sharkas was appointed by the former leader just two months before his capture and death at the hands of rebels in October.

Mr Sharkas resigned after weeks of rallies, during which protesters had demanded the exclusion of former regime officials from the cabinet.

Mass lunch scrapped

The day's central event was a march to the former Royal Palace, which currently houses the country's national museum.

"Today, we begin the building of Libya as our forefathers have done," Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib from the National Transitional Council said.

"We call on our sons to build Libya after its destruction," he added.

One of those present at the celebrations, Prince Idris bin Abdullah al-Senussi, who was among the royal family members forced into exile, told the BBC that he had dreamed of being able to one day return to Libya.

"Libyans are determined to build a country, to have a democracy," he said.

"I think they will never accept any more somebody to dictate or humiliate them. Libyans will run their country by themselves."

However, a planned mass lunch for several thousand people in Tripoli was cancelled for security reasons.

Even today, many Libyans remain unaware of the significance of 24 December - the anniversary was not celebrated during Col Gaddafi's four-decade rule.