July 12 (Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi, facing a major revolt against his rule, is the Arab world’s longest serving leader. With no official government function, he is known as the “Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution”.
* Born to a Bedouin herdsman in 1942 in a tent near Sirte on the Mediterranean. Abandoned university geography studies for a military career that included a short spell at a British army signals school. He seized power in a coup in 1969.
* Embraced the pan-Arabism of the late Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser and tried without success to merge Libya, Egypt and Syria into a federation. A similar attempt to join Libya and Tunisia ended in acrimony.
* In 1977 he changed the country’s name to the Great Socialist Popular Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah (State of the Masses) and allowed people to air their views at people’s congresses.
* U.S. warplanes bombed Libya in reponse to the bombing of a Berlin disco used by U.S. soldiers.
* U.N. sanctions, imposed in 1992 to pressure Tripoli to hand over two Libyan suspects for trial for the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing over Scotland, crippled oil-rich Libya’s economy, dampened Gaddafi’s revolutionary spirit and took the sting out of his anti-capitalist, anti-Western rhetoric.
* Gaddafi, shunned internationally for much of his rule because the West accused him of terrorism, abandoned his programme of prohibited weapons in 2003 to return Libya into international mainstream politics.
* In September 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush formally ended a U.S. trade embargo as a result of Gaddafi’s scrapping of the arms programme and taking responsibility for Lockerbie.
* In August 2006, Gaddafi made a series of speeches scolding his nation for over-reliance on petroleum, foreigners and imports and telling them to start making things people need.
* His showmanship is most on display on foreign visits when he sleeps in a Bedouin tent guarded by dozens of female bodyguards. During a visit to Italy in August 2010, Gaddafi’s invitation to hundreds of young women to convert to Islam overshadowed the two-day trip, which was intended to cement the growing ties between Tripoli and Rome.
* Five months into a conflict that has embroiled NATO and become the bloodiest of the “Arab Spring” uprisings, there has been a flurry of reports about talks on Gaddafi stepping down in exchange for security guarantees.
* NATO launched its bombing campaign in March after the United Nations Security Council authorised the use of all necessary means to protect civilians who, inspired by revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, rose up against Gaddafi last February.
* Gaddafi says the rebels are armed criminals and al Qaeda militants. He has called the NATO operation an act of colonial aggression aimed at stealing Libyan oil.
— Rebels control the eastern third of Libya, as well as pockets in the West, and NATO says its strikes are gradually eroding Gaddafi’s hold on power. But the rebels have failed to make a breakthrough and advance on Tripoli.