With Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's home as a backdrop, US singer Lionel Richie performed on Saturday in a concert on the anniversary of the raids that killed 40 in the North African country.

 

Earlier, at a conference on the attacks on Tripoli and Benghazi, a senior Libyan official damned the United States and said President George Bush was insane.

 

The United States "is a damned country, banished from divine  mercy and deserving only of being cursed", deputy parliament speaker Ahmed Ibrahim said on Thursday.

 

The "United States considers its occupation of our countries  (Muslim and Arab) to be legitimate and brands as terrorist our  resistance" to it, Ibrahim said.

 

He said Bush was "insane" because he "makes all sorts of threats and says all options are open when it comes to the Arab and Muslim worlds, particularly Syria and Iran".

 

The 1986 raids were  carried out in reprisal for the bombing of a Berlin disco that Washington blamed on Libya.

 

"Who can any longer have confidence in an America that has  weapons of mass destruction, that threatens Muslims and insists on Syria leaving Lebanon? Why does the United States not pull its forces out of Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf?" Ibrahim asked.

 

Pop star

Lionel Richie performs in front of
Gaddafi's house in Tripoli

Richie sang for an adoring audience on Saturday.

 

"Libya, I love you. I'll be back," the Oscar and Grammy award-winning singer songwriter said to roars of approval from more than 1,000 senior Libyan officials and diplomats gathered in front of the shell-cratered building.

 

He was followed by Spanish opera stars Jose Carreras and Ofelia Sala, who belted through a selection of classical favourites backed by 60-piece orchestra under a cloudless night sky.

 

Organisers said the music provided an upbeat commemoration of the 1986 raid, an event that marked one of the lowest points in the decades Libya spent being seen as an outlaw state that supported terrorism.

 

US forces bombed Tripoli and Benghazi in the early hours of April 15, 1986. Ronald Reagan, the US president then, said it was in retaliation for what he called Libyan complicity in the bombing of a discotheque in Berlin a month earlier in which three people, including a US serviceman, were killed.

 

Gaddafi's former home has been kept in its wrecked state to mark the attack in which 40 people were killed, including Gaddafi's adopted daughter Hanna.

 

The concert was named Hanna Peace Day in honour of the child, one of several killed in the strike.

 

Celebration

 

Aisha Gaddafi, daughter of Libya's
leader, speaks at the concert

Radiating charm and wit, Richie brought the soberly dressed audience repeatedly to its feet with a succession of his greatest hits, persuading them to sing along and dance.

 

He won laughs when he joked that some in the audience knew the words to his songs better than he did.

 

The concert took place in a park-like compound, dotted with tents, low residential buildings and security encampments. Herds of camels dozed beneath palm trees, and young children chased antelopes over the grass beneath a bright full moon.

 

Message of goodwill

The organisers said they wanted the Western singers' star power to underline the sincerity of Libya's rapprochement with the outside world, bury enmities and promote a message of goodwill.

 

Libyans mark the 20th anniversary
of the US bombing of Libya

"I stand in front of this silent house where 20 years ago my childhood was torn and my toys were destroyed," said Gaddafi's daughter Aisha, who was about 10 at the time of the attack.

 

"Twenty years ago on this day I awoke to the sound of bombs and rockets and the cries of my brothers ... But today we try to heal our wounds and shake hands with those who are here with us tonight. Yes for peace, no for destruction," she said.

 

The event ended with a group of children dressed as angels standing on a balcony of the house and waving candles as they sang along to a recording of the US humanitarian pop anthem "We are the world".