In a phone interview with the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Saif Al-Islam Al-Qadhafi, the son of Libya's leader Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi, accused the West of instigating the civil war in Libya and the Arab news channels of distorting the situation there. He claimed that the regime controls most of the country, including the oil wells and the sea ports, and that the trouble is confined to a few isolated areas.
He added that the regime enjoys the support of the people, and denied it had usedwar planes or African mercenaries against civilians. As for the opposition leaders, he called them opportunists trying to advance themselves at the expense of the Libyan victims, and claimed that the danger to civilians comes not from the regime but from "armed militias" and" terrorist groups."
Saif Al-Islam said he is in favor of reforms and democracy, but that this must be done calmly and in an agreed-upon manner. He denied that the Al-Qadhafi family has bank accounts in Switzerland.
Some of Saif Al-Islam's more provocative remarks were omitted by the paper and replaced with ellipsis marks. At the end of the interview, the interviewer, Khaled Mahmoud, thanked Saif Al-Islam but stated he does not believe his claims.
The following are excerpts from Saif Al-Islam's statements in the interview:
"Libya Is Not Egypt or Tunisia… The Libyan Nation is Mighty, and There are No Problems"
Describing the situation in Libya, Saif Al-Islam Al-Qadhafi said: "The situation in 90% of the country is fine. The problem now is [only] in Derna, Benghazi, and a little bit in Tabruk... People don't have to take my word for it. They can go there with a camera and see for themselves. The claim that hundreds of defenseless civilians have been killed and wounded is untrue... All that talk is pure nonsense..." He stressed: "Nobody ordered [the security apparatuses] to kill; it happened spontaneously," and added: "My conscience is completely clear, because justice is on my side and I am 100% convinced in [the rightness of] what I am doing. The enemy and those who oppose us are the ones who wish to divide Libya into west and east, and want NATO and the U.S. to intervene. What patriot agrees to the division of his country? What patriot agrees to [external] intervention and to the occupation of his land by foreign forces? What patriot sends his children to demonstrate and get killed, so he can rule in their name?..."
He stated further: "I do not blame Al-Qaeda [for the violence in Libya], but rather armed militias and terrorist groups inside [the country]. Foreign journalists have interviewed them and photographed them with their weapons, machine-guns and tanks. This is a fact on the ground..."
According to Saif Al-Islam, "the streets of Tripoli are open, and life goes on as usual. In the other cities in southern and central [Libya], life goes on as usual too... When Hosni Mubarak stepped down, five million Egyptians took to the streets and came to Al-Tahrir square, and the man, Mubarak, packed his bags and left for Sharm Al-Sheikh. That's not the story here. Here nobody is on the streets. Why do you want to destroy our home? Libya is not Egypt or Tunisia... We [rulers of Libya] will not go to Jeddah [like former Tunisian president Zine El-'Abidine Ben 'Ali] or to Sharm Al-Sheikh [like Mubarak]. We are staying here."
He stressed that the Libyan army controls all oil wells and oil shipping ports, and added: "Today we are united and in agreement. We have not seen so much national activity in decades... It's unbelievable. For the first time, we are seeing all the Libyans acting on the political and social level... There is real unity and [a real] revival today. We Libyans are united. There is no east [Libya] and west [Libya]. The Libyan nation is mighty, and there are no problems... We are hoping for a brighter future and are convinced [it will come]. Don't listen to the groups that want to rule and to gain positions of power at the expense of Libyan blood and the partition of the country... All they want is to rule."
About the possibility of civil war in Libya, Saif Al-Islam said: "It was U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the U.S. as a whole, that claimed Libya could slide into civil war... People are afraid of the crime and terror going on in Derna and Benghazi, [not of the regime]. You can call people and ask them, and you'll see..."
The Leaders of the Opposition Do Not Represent the Libyan People
About the opposition, Saif Al-Islam said: "That [...] Ghoqa ['Abdel Hafiz Ghoqa, spokesman for the 'transitional national council' in Benghazi] visited the leader (Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi) in his tent two weeks ago, and extolled [Al-Qadhafi] and sang his praises. He appeared on Al-Jazeera and defended Libya and the regime, and now he is talking of overthrowing the regime... The slogan of [the opposition] is 'We love you to the last penny in your pockets'... The Libyans deserve an improved regime, and I hope we will achieve this, but not with [the help of] that piece of garbage... Nobody is Libya's sponsor. [There are] six million [Libyans], so Ghoqa and his ten companions are not the Libyan people..."
Asked about the Military Council in Benghazi, composed of officers who defected from the Libyan army, Saif Al-Islam said: "What military council are you talking about? Whose council is it? That's rubbish. They are a bunch of elderly wretches who were threatened. [The rebels] told them: 'say yes, or else we'll do things [to you].' They are miserable, frightened people..."
Asked whether he would negotiate with the rebels in Benghazi, Saif Al-Islam replied: "Negotiate with whom?! You are talking of ten people who represent nobody but themselves. Benghazi is [a city of] one and a half million people... Not all the demonstrators are [even] Libyans. There are Egyptians and others [among them]... How many people came out [to demonstrate]? Five thousand? Ten thousand? One hundred thousand at the most. Benghazi has one and a half million residents..." He added that if elections were held today, the regime would win 80% of the vote.
International Plot against Libya
Saif Al-Islam said further: "To hell with Al-Jazeera, Qatar, the [U.S.] Fifth Fleet, and NATO. All of them can go and [...]. They do not concern me..." He added: "We Libyans would be fine were it not for the NATO Alliance, the [UN] Security Council, the Arab channels, the civil war, the problems created by external elements who lied and spread rumors, the [...] clerics who issued religious rulings [against Qadhafi]... the U.S., and France. Here everything is fine, we are one family. We will resolve our problems in the best possible way, calmly and with [mutual] understanding. We say to the world: 'Leave us alone'..." Saif Al-Islam noted that Libya had invited the world to send teams to investigate the claims that the army and air force had bombed civilians or protestors. "It is unacceptable that you should create a problem [yourself] and then come to punish me," he said.
The Regime Is Not Crumbling
About the defection of Libyan diplomats, Saif Al-Islam said: "It is untrue that most of the [Libyan] diplomatic staff has resigned. Those who resigned did so in the first four days [of the protests], when it was impossible to contact Libya [and ascertain the facts]... After all, we are talking about people, unfortunate people. The media has vast influence, and these people got confused..."
The Regime Did Not Hire Mercenaries
Referring to the issue of the mercenaries, he added: "In Libya there are blacks. Just because a soldier is black does not mean he is a mercenary. That's racist. Such talk is a disgrace. In Libya there are blacks and there are whites. The mercenaries are those who turned to the Americans and brought in NATO and the Qataris. These are the [true] mercenaries. But those who were seen [in the streets] are free Libyans, whether they were black or white..."
Those Who Cross the Red Lines Will Pay the Price
Explaining why he was seen to carry arms recently, Saif Al-Islam said that he had to carry a weapon because the entire Libyan people is now armed. He warned, "If people cross the red lines, I will hit them and their fathers with my shoes."
There Is Need for Reform in Libya
Saif Al-Islam went on to say: "An agreed-upon constitution must be drafted, laws must be passed to increase liberty and democracy in Libya, and peace and security must be restored here. Free elections must be held, and people must choose according to their own will. But anarchy, bloodshed, and the division of Libya into east and west are unacceptable. The criminals with bloodstained hands are the ones who created this civil war..." He stressed: "I spoke of liberty and democracy a month ago, a year ago, two years ago. You have interviewed me forty times, and I always said the same things..." He added: "For years, I called for reforms, and no one listened to me. I still call for them. The only path for Libya is that of reform, democracy, and additional freedoms..." Saif Al-Islam concluded: "Now is the greatest opportunity [for democracy] in Libya. This is a historical opportunity for Libya to become a democratic country... Allah willing, this will happen peacefully and without killing, bloodshed, victims and schism..."
Asked whether such a democratic country could exist with his father still in power, Saif Al-Islam replied: "What is important is Libya and not names. What is important is our country and [its] people. It does not matter who [is in power]. We are all willing to die and make sacrifices for the sake of our country."
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 3, 2011.
 Throughout this document, three dots in square brackets indicate an ellipsis mark in the original interview, where Al-Sharq Al-Awsat omitted an epithet in Saif Al-Islam's remarks. Ellipsis inserted by MEMRI is indicated by three dots without brackets.