| GEO World|
| Kadhafi marks 40 years in power|
| Updated at: 2230 PST, Tuesday, September 01, 2009|
TRIPOLI: Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi marked the 40th anniversary on Tuesday of the bloodless coup that brought him to power, with celebrations attended by African, Arab and Latin American leaders but largely ignored by the West.
Kadhafi's party kicked off around midnight on Monday at the former US military base of Matega near Tripoli with a two-hour spectacle morning that paid homage to the leader himself and featured music, illuminations and dance.
Entitled "A Knight and Men," the display was marked by a procession of some 30 floats -- one with a giant picture of the leader in military uniform -- and performances by dancers and horsemen from Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Ukraine.
Kadhafi's invited guests included Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, African leaders who had earlier attended an African Union summit in Libya, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, his Dominican counterpart Leonel Fernandez, Serbian leader Boris Tadic and Philippine President Gloria Arroyo.
Jordanian King Abdullah II was due to arrive in Libya on Tuesday, accompanied by his half-brother, Prince Ali.
Later on Tuesday, Kadhafi and his guests were to watch a military parade comprising detachments of African, Arab and European troops.
Some 80 aircraft, including two French Rafale jets, are to carry out a fly-past over the streets of Tripoli, where draconian security measures resulted in main arteries being closed and huge traffic jams blocking secondary routes.
The streets have been decked with thousands of multicoloured lights, and hundreds of Kadhafi portraits and placards paying tribute to the leader, including one saying: "May Glory Be Yours, O Maker of Glories."
The grand finale, a 90-minute show to begin at 11:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Tuesday, will retrace the 40 years since the 27-year-old colonel ousted King Idriss in a 1969 coup.
Kadhafi, who once described himself as "leader of the Arab leaders, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of the Muslims," invited a string of European leaders who, however, stayed away.
Libya's ties with the West have improved markedly but suffered a major hiccup last month when the north African country gave a hero's welcome to the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.
The public celebration of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi's return came despite US warnings that such a welcome would damage relations that have been improving since Tripoli renounced its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction in 2003.
Scottish authorities freed Megrahi on compassionate grounds but critics in London charge that his release was linked to oil contracts in Libya.
Kadhafi is now being welcomed in European capitals after many years as a pariah and being accused of supporting terrorism.
The New York-based group Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called on Kadhafi to mark the anniversary "by wiping repressive laws off the books and freeing political prisoners."
"Kadhafi's Great Green Charter of Human Rights promised that all human beings will be free and equal in the exercise of power,'" said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director.
"Forty years later, Libyans are still waiting for their rights." Delayed promises to forge ahead with political and economic reforms in the oil-rich African nation are still lagging despite ambitious plans backed by the leader's second son and heir apparent, Seif al-Islam.
Seif al-Islam, who accompanied Megrahi home and whose charitable foundation financed his legal defence, dismissed criticism of the convicted bomber's release.
"Lockerbie is history," he told the Scottish newspaper The Herald about the mid-air bombing of a Pan Am plane over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 that killed 270 people.
"The next step is fruitful and productive business with Edinburgh and London. Libya is a promising, rich market and so let's talk about the future."
Kadhafi marked his latest diplomatic victory when he received Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Sunday to celebrate the first anniversary of a friendship treaty with the former colonial power.
The pair also set the foundation stone for a 1,200 kilometre (750 mile) coastal highway to be paid for by Italy as compensation for alleged imperial exactions.