March 24, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 685

Qaddafi's Son Tells Al-Hayat: 'Libya Must Be A Democratic And Open Country'

March 24, 2004
Libya, North Africa | Special Dispatch No. 685

On a visit to Paris during which he met with French President Jacques Chirac, the son of Libyan ruler Muammar Al-Qaddafi, Sayf Al-Islam Al-Qaddafi, gave an interview to the London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat. The following are excerpts from the interview: [1]

'The Libyan People is Interested in Progress, Development, and Democracy'

Question: "Do you think the problem of the UTA [2] plane [for which Libya was responsible] and the damages paid to the families of the victims has been completely resolved with Paris?"

Sayf Al-Islam: "I heard personally from President Chiracthat we have solved the problem of the UTA plane, that a new page has been turned over [in French-Libyan relations], and that France wants to cooperate and work with Libya in Africa and in the Mediterranean region on reforms connected to the 'Greater Middle East' [Initiative]. The meeting with Chirac was excellent, and he promised to visit Libya. Libyan Prime Minister Shukri Ghanem will visit France next month to confirm the agreements."

Question: "Have you in fact finished the affair with compensation to the UTA families and have the funds been paid [to them]?"

Sayf Al-Islam: "With regard to the Al-Qaddafi Foundation, [3] we have completed [our work in this matter] and have arranged the matter of the fund, the means of payment, and all the legal matters. The payment will be completed in April [2004]."

Question: "We read that the change [in the makeup of the] government in Libya is considered a victory for Sayf Al-Islam. What is your interpretation of it?"

Sayf Al-Islam: "I want to correct the headline of the article that appeared in [the paper] Al-Hayat that said that the change [in the makeup of the government] is a victory for Sayf Al-Islam's [stream]. This is inaccurate, because there is no such stream. What does exist is the Libyan people as a whole, with its desires and its aspirations. The Al-Qaddafi Foundation, which functions in [Libyan] civil society, reflects these desires.

"The Libyan people is interested in progress, development, democracy, human rights, and freedoms, and all these constitute the agenda of our institutions which mirror the thoughts and aspirations of the [Libyan] society. Soon Libya will witness [development] that will be a precedent with regard to the Arab world, and it will be manifested by freedom of the press and freedom of printing."

'The WMD Agreement was Reached Prior to the War in Iraq'

Question: "How can you realize this in light [of the existence of] the stream opposing openness that claims that [openness] threatens the regime?"

Sayf Al-Islam: "We in the Al-Qaddafi Foundation are continuing with our plan regarding the press and publication. In every civil society, there are disagreements among people on the left, extremists, and conservatives. In Libyan society, there are such disagreements, but 70% of Libyan society under the age of 40 aspires to the same values to which the younger generation aspires.

"Accordingly, the streams opposing reform are a small number of people, like [ordnance] that remains after a war. For example, we have a number of mines from the days of World War II, but they are not usable; they are left over from a period belonging to history."

Question: "But don't freedom of the press and openness disrupt and threaten the regime in Libya?"

Sayf Al-Islam: "I think that in Libya there is no real opposition to reform and openness. Five or 10 people will not change the path and desires of five million Libyans. Libya must be a democratic and open country. If it isn't, it will become a reactionary, dictatorial, and fascist Arab country."

Question: "You have said several times that you are not the heir of the leader Muammar Al-Qaddafi,yet everyone accepts you and treats you as his heir. Are you an advisor to the colonel [i.e. Qaddafi]?"

Sayf Al-Islam: "My abilities are too minor for me to be an advisor to the Libyan president. I have not yet attained the level of knowledge [required] to be an advisor to the commander…"

Question: "What caused President Al-Qaddafi to hand over all the material the Americans demanded [regarding WMDs]? Was it international sanctions or fear of an American attack [on Libya]? Were these the main topics in the talks with the U.S. State Department?"

Sayf Al-Islam: "To be precise – It was already nine months ago that most [of the agreement] among American intelligence, British intelligence, and Libyan military intelligence was reached with regard to WMDs, in the framework of secret negotiations prior to the war in Iraq."

The 50-Year Palestinian Armed Struggle Did Not Produce the Results of Five Years of Negotiations

Question: "Did you know about this?"

Sayf Al-Islam: "[laughs] I welcomed it from afar. Libya's decision [to disarm] stems from three reasons that I present in public for the first time:

"The first reason is the political, economic, cultural, and military gains [offered to us]…

"The second reason is that we were on a dangerous path, and had problems with the West. When the West came and told us that it didn't want to fight us, but to be partners with us – why persist in being hostile to it?

"The third and main reason is that we developed weapons for the purpose of war with the enemy. We have seen that the armed struggle of the Palestinians, which lasted 50 years, did not produce results such as those obtained by means of negotiations that lasted five years. They told the commander [that is, Muammar Al-Qaddafi] that they had given up the rifle and taken the path of negotiations, and obtained what they had not obtained in 50 years, from Beirut through Tunisia and Amman.

"In addition, the commander [Al-Qaddafi] is hurt by some Arab stances that made him feel like the Arabs are exploiting him, laughing at him, and threatening him with the American card.

"The commander is convinced that as long as there is no essential change in the Arab countries and reorganization of the Arab system, this nation will not be able to grow. The commander thinks that if this problem is solved, Libya will emerge from international isolation, will conduct dialogue with the superpowers, and will act with them to change the Arab situation. And when the West and the U.S. make a treaty with you, which did not happen in the past 50 years, this can [now] come about within a few years."

Question: "What level have Libya-U.S. relations reached? And when will diplomatic relations between the two countries be renewed?" Sayf Al-Islam: "According to what the Americans tell us, it can be assumed that this will take place during the coming months, and before the U.S. presidential election campaign. We are expecting a visit to Libya soon by William Burns, the assistant to the U.S. secretary of state, and [a visit by] the U.S. energy secretary during the next few months. A week ago, American oil companies returned to Libya. The Marathon, Conoco, and Occidental [4] companies have returned [to Libya], and the presidents of these companies will visit Libya next week and meet with President Al-Qaddafi. They will resume operations immediately where they used to be. We have preserved and frozen all their rights for 20 years. Now we are demanding that with their return they pay the fees, because we preserved their rights [for them]."


[1] Al-Hayat (London), March 10, 2004.

[2] The 1989 bombing of a DC-10 airliner belonging to the French airline UTA over the Sahara desert in the west African state of Niger, killing 170 from 17 countries, including 54 French.

[3] The Al-Qaddafi World Foundation, headed by Sayf Al-Islam Al-Qaddafi, participated in resolving the issue of compensation to the families of the victims of the French UTA plane.

[4] These companies left Libya in 1986 at the orders of U.S. president Ronald Reagan.

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