Libya: Young Men in a Hurry

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The Revolutionary Command Council has promised to leave the oil industry in peace, though it has insisted that the companies must ask permission before sinking new wells. But Gaddafi has already "Libyanized" foreign banks, and he may cancel a contract signed by the deposed king for a $336 million British-built missile-defense system. The French have apparently stolen a march on the British with an agreement negotiated by President Pompidou himself to supply 200 heavy tanks to Libya as well as 50 Mirage jets. Since the numbers are well in excess of Libya's needs, the speculation is that the planes and tanks undoubtedly will be lent to Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, whom Gaddafi admiringly calls "Brother Nasser."

Meanwhile, the domestic economy is being hurt by the concentration on national identity. The Revolutionary Command Council ordered skilled Italian workers to leave construction jobs, a move that threw the unskilled Libyan laborers employed on the sites out of work. Dockworkers are idle because imports have dropped 85%. Unemployment has reportedly risen to 12% of the labor force. One reason for such problems might be that the army officers, who range in age from the mid-30s down to 23, are not yet prepared to handle a complex national economy. Also, the regime is still beset by internal rivalries. Gaddafi, however, apparently feels firmly in control, since he left the country at week's end to take part in the Rabat summit.

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