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Libya's Qaddafi rings in 40 years with a guest list to die for

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Ben Curtis/AP

(Read caption) Ceremonial horsemen stand on their horses at a lavish private dance spectacle thrown for African heads of state by Libyan Leader Muammar Qaddafi in Tripoli, Libya, early Tuesday.

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Say what you will about Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, the man definitely knows how to throw a party.

And what better way to ring in the 40-year anniversary of the colonel's coup than to invite some of the world's most democratically challenged leaders for a week's worth of lavish festivities?

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It really is a guest list to die for.

Sudan's Islamist ruler, Omar al-Bashir, who this year was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), sat smiling during a "special" one-day African summit that Mr. Qaddafi held yesterday in his capacity as rotating head of the African Union (AU).

He was joined at the meeting by Zimbabwean independence-hero-turned-dictator Robert Mugabe, who has been blamed for taking his country from being the breadbasket of Africa to an economic basketcase while violently stifling all opposition along the way. (Mr. Mugabe threw himself a lush 85th birthday party earlier this year, complete with a 187-pound cake.)

Even Venezuela's fiery leftist leader Hugo Chávez – now the Arabs' favorite world leader, according to one respected survey – is on hand to fete the "king of kings."

Italy's controversial and flamboyant prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, also paid Qaddafi a visit on Sunday.

Most other European leaders boycotted the event in the wake of the controversial return of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who received a hero's welcome upon landing in the country.

Flaunting Megrahi?

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Qaddafi, however, "is set to flaunt the Lockerbie bomber’s release at the climax of today’s celebrations," report The Times, which gained access to a dress rehearsal of tonight's show. Rather than parade the ill man about, the event's organizers are set to play the videotape of Megrahi's recent arrival to Libya on a giant screen during the finale of a two-hour spectacular show.

What Darfur war?

During yesterday's AU summit, leaders discussed some of the continent's most vexing problems.

Israel is "behind all of Africa's conflicts" Qaddafi said. "As African brothers, we must find solutions to stop the superpowers who are pillaging our continent."

And the war in Darfur? The one that caused the deaths of more than 200,000 people and forced more than 2.5 million to flee their homes? The one former Secretary of State Colin Powell called "genocide"?

That's an internal matter for Sudan, said Qaddafi.
No matter that many of Africa's most influential leaders did not show up for the special summit, those leaders who were there decided that the war in Sudan's troubled Darfur region is over.

Perhaps they hit the "easy button."