TRIPOLI An exclusive interview with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, as troops loyal to him advance on rebel strongholds in the eastern part of the country.
In your last public discourse, Tuesday evening, you vowed to crush the rebellion. Does that mean that you are ready to take back control of the entire country at whatever human cost it requires? I never expressed myself in those terms. What I wanted to say is that there is a conspiracy against the Libyan people. And whatever is the source of that conspiracy whether its imperialist, comes from al Qaeda or even from within the Libyan people must crush it.
The Libyan army has announced an imminent assault on Benghazi. Do you think you can win back this city, headquarters of the opposition, and avoid a bloodbath? My concern is to liberate the people from the armed gangs that occupy Benghazi. These rebels might use the residents as human shields. There is also the possibility that the rebels will kill civilians and blame it on the Libyan army.
An amnesty was offered to former soldiers who joined the rebellion. How many people have repented to date? We must first remember that these former soldiers have joined the rebellion against their will. The terrorists do not give them a choice. When they attacked the barracks, they captured the soldiers, telling them: you must come with us otherwise you will be killed. But their number is limited because there were many soldiers who were able to escape.
How much time do you give yourself to regain control of the country? If we used force, it would only take us one day. But our goal is to progressively dismantle the armed groups, through various means encircling the cities or sending in mediators. Some well-known figures act as intermediaries. We also rely on repentant ex-soldiers to go talk to their former comrades.
Has a dialogue been opened with the rebels? These are not people with whom one can envision a dialogue, because al Qaeda does not dialogue with anyone. If the world wants to talk to al Qaeda, it has to dialogue with Bin Laden!
What role can the tribal chiefs play? They can act as mediators, asking these elements to surrender their weapons. As for the terrorists who came from abroad, they should leave the country and return to Afghanistan and Guantanamo.
Young people we have met dream of greater freedom of expression, better economic conditions. Will you listen to their demands? Here, young people are free to express their demands. I've already said that they can do it in people's committees. We dont arrest people, only people who are part of a conspiracy.
Who exactly are your opponents? Here, there is no opposition. All of the demonstrations you see today are organized by the masses who support me. We have no opposition in Libya. These are only armed groups who occupy certain streets and certain buildings in certain cities.
Once Benghazi is recaptured, what will happen to the National Transition Council? It is very likely that they will have fled. In any case, its not a unified structure. It has no value. These people will probably flee to Egypt. A thousand people yesterday already crossed over the border into Egypt: foreigners, Egyptians, Afghans, Pakistanis, but also Libyans.
But the members of the Council, and those who support it, are former ministers, diplomats and military officers. If they decide to stay in Libya, will you arrest them or grant them amnesty? These people were taken hostage. If they stay, I will forgive because it's not their fault.
How do you respond to riots that have shaken your two neighbors, Tunisia and Egypt? At first I thought it was a popular revolution. (But) I was quickly disillusioned. At first I thought there was a real desire to transform the political system of these countries into 'Jamahiriya', inspired by the Libyan model. In the end, we have just witnessed a transfer of power from one President to another President, from ex-ministers to other ministers. So these are not real revolutions.
In both cases, Ben Ali and Mubarak were removed from power. If it is in the interest of your country, could you foresee that you too might step down? Step down from what? (Laughs) I'm nothing more than the guide of the Libyan Revolution of 1969. Thus I cannot work against the will of the people. In Tunisia and Egypt, the people were against their government. In Libya, its the opposite, the people are with me. You havent seen all these people in the streets, all these demonstrations in my favor? Its a plebiscite
After more than 41 years in your position, don't you simply want to offer your place to someone else, so you can rest? I have no relationship with politics or power. So I have no power to give up. I have no job to leave.
So who runs your country? It is the people, the General Congress, the People's Committees.
In times of crisis, such as that your country is facing now, is it really possible to solve everything through these people's committees? It is the people that make it all function. Even attacks against the rebels are undertaken by the people. It is the people who are currently armed. And Inshallah, thanks to the people, everything will soon be in order.
Read the original article in French
Photo Credit - (Open Democracy)