Flanked by more than two dozen African leaders, a jubilant Moammar Gadhafi staged a massive show of force Tuesday, displaying long-range missiles, warplanes and tanks at a five-hour parade marking his 30th year in power.
Dressed in a white naval military uniform and a green sash studded with gold medals, Gadhafi raised two arms in salute to his troops, pounded a clenched fist on the arm of his gilded chair as the military band played and craned his neck to watch fighter jets piloted by women officers flying low over the Mediterranean coast.
Thousands of soldiers marched in the parade, the biggest in Tripoli since the United Nations lifted its sanctions in April following Libya's handover of two suspects in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. The explosion killed 270 people, mostly Americans and Britons.
Gadhafi has been eager to show the world such a tableau. Ostracized and isolated for seven years because of the sanctions, Gadhafi hopes to return to the international stage.
Only about half of the expected 46 African heads of state showed up.