Libya: Peanuts to Prosperity

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Retiring to Palaces. Despite such problems, Libyans recognize good times when they see them; U.S. Ambassador David Newsom calls Libya "the most stable country in the Arab world today." Reform-minded King Idris, 76, has built more than 100 new schools outside Tripoli, has pledged 70% of the government's $200 million-a-year budget for more housing, hospitals, roads and other welfare and public works projects. To keep Libya steady as well as rich, he has built a well-trained, 7,000-man army, and has quietly warned Egypt's Nasser that in case of aggression he would not hesitate to call for help from the U.S.'s Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli and Britain's R.A.F. staging base at El Adem outside Tobruk.

To prepare the way for an orderly transition after his death, Idris has been grooming his nephew, Crown Prince Hassan Rida, and at the same time altering and liberalizing the character of Libya's kingship. He is retiring more and more to his half a dozen domed and crenelated palaces scattered around the country, leaving day-to-day government to his able and popular Prime Minister, Hussein Mazik, and encouraging talk of a constitutional monarchy and even a republic after he is gone. Whatever Libya becomes, the chances are that its wealth will continue to grow: it has hardly begun to tap the oil riches with which nature, forgetting almost everything else, has endowed it.

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