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Work on Libya railway system moving forward

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Enric Marti/AP

(Read caption) Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Libya is the only country in North Africa without a railway. “I believe the railway that links the Arab nation from Egypt until it reaches Morocco is more important than water supplies to a city or a region,” Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi said in a 1993 speech.

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Since 2008, the nation has been hard at work building a 1,969-mile rail network scheduled to be completed in 2012.

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The lines stretch east to west along the country’s Mediterranean coast and south to Sabha, in the center of the country. Outside Tripoli, a sleek model train sits on newly constructed tracks. Inside, in first class, white sofas line the cabin. Business class has shiny blue chairs arranged around tables.

The government says the completed network will employ more than 1,000 Libyan technicians, such as Shukri al-Arab. Mr. Arab has spent 10 years preparing to work the tracks. He studied electrical engineering in Yugoslavia. “We are all very, very happy because we are making the train in Libya,” he says.