6:23pm UK, Monday February 21, 2011
Colonel Gaddafi is the longest-serving leader in both Africa and the Arab world, having ruled Libya since he toppled King Idris I in a bloodless coup in 1969 aged 27.
Col Gaddafi presents himself as the spiritual guide of Libya
He may be ridiculed by some for his flamboyant dress-sense and female bodyguards, but Col Gaddafi is also a skilled political operator who moved swiftly to bring his country out of diplomatic isolation.
It was in 2003 - after some two decades of pariah status - that Tripoli took responsibility for the bombing of a Pan Am plane over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, paving the way for the UN to lift sanctions.
Months later, Col Gadaffi's regime abandoned efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, triggering a fuller rapprochement with the West.
That saw him complete a transition from international outcast to an accepted, if unpredictable, leader.
Colonel Gaddafi in the early years of his rule in 1975
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