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08 Mar 2011 06:56
One of Muammar Gaddafi’s sons, Saadi, said on Monday his father had not yet thrown his army into full battle against rebels, saving it to shield Libya against foreign attack, and civil war could erupt if he did.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya television, Saadi Gaddafi also said the Libyan leader could not resign as demanded by the rebels because that could also lead to civil war.
Saadi blamed some of the unrest on one of his brothers, Saif al-Islam, who he said had sought economic reforms but failed to address the problems of ordinary Libyans.
“The tribes are all armed, there are forces from the Libyan army and the eastern region is armed. The situation is not like Tunisia or Egypt,” said Saadi, who was briefly a professional footballer in Italy before turning to business.
Protests in Tunisia and Egypt have toppled the presidents of both countries since the start of the year.
“The situation is very dangerous,” he said.
The leader must play a very, very big role in calming Libya and convincing people to sit together.
He said the Libyan army had so far only intervened to protect “sensitive sites” and a wider war would result if his father ordered them into an all-out fight.
“The leader has given special instructions to the army not to intervene, save for the protection of sensitive sites, and to be ready to repel foreign intervention.”
The military was just waiting for Gaddafi’s orders, Saadi said. “So far it has not moved. When it does, a civil war may erupt,” he said in the full broadcast of the interview, which Al-Arabiya had excerpted earlier in the day.
The news channel said that Saadi Gaddafi warned that Libya would turn into a new Somalia and that tribes would fight against each other.
He said Tripoli was holding a dialogue through the tribes to answer the demands of the people, without making clear which demands he was referring to.
“But there are armed groups that pursue the path of killing and violence, which I think leaves only the choice of confronting them,” he added.
Saadi’s criticism of his brother Saif al-Islam hinted at strains within the Gaddafi family as the unrest continued.
“The leader told them [Saif al-Islam and the ministers] on a daily basis that you are facilitating matters and the budget, but there are things they did not do.”
Those shortcomings included failing to address issues like prices of basic commodities that concerned Libyans, Saadi said.
The reforming efforts of Saif al-Islam were stymied by opposition from inside the ruling elite and, some analysts had said, family members. Educated at a British university, Saif al-Islam has acted a spokesperson for his father during the unrest.
Saadi had a brief career in Italy’s Serie A soccer league between 2003 and 2007, though he had little time on the field.
Saadi, who qualified as an engineer and also holds military rank, later turned to business. He told Reuters in an interview last year he was behind a project to set up a free trade zone on the Mediterranean coast west of Tripoli.
When violence engulfed Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi in mid-February, Saadi spoke on local radio to say he had been appointed commandant of the city. Soon after, residents took control of Benghazi and forced out Gaddafi’s forces.
Premature to arm rebels
The United States said on Monday it was considering whether to arm the Libyan opposition but said it would be premature to do so now, amid rising pressure on the White House over the crisis.
White House spokesperson Jay Carney said US officials were seeking to learn as much as they could about Libyan opposition groups, but that offering weapons to opponents of Gaddafi was only one option on the table.
However, State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley said it would currently be illegal for the United States to arm the opposition because of a UN Security Council banning all weapon shipments to Libya.
Carney told reporters: “On the issue of ... arming, providing weapons, it is one of the range of options that is being considered.
“We are pursuing a number of channels to have conversations and discussions with the opposition, groups and individuals, as we try to learn more about what they are pursuing, what they want.
“Speaking more generally, you have to be very cognisant however when you pursue these options of what it is you are trying to accomplish.
“It would be premature to send a bunch of weapons to a PO Box in eastern Libya, we need to not get ahead of ourselves,” Carney said.
On Sunday, Republican Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell called for the option of arming insurgents to be considered in Libya, further raising domestic political pressure on Obama over the issue.
Veteran diplomatic troubleshooter Bill Richardson, a Democrat, also made a similar call.
But Crowley said he understood such a move would violate action taken at the United Nations on February 26.
“In the UN Security Council resolution passed on Libya, there is an arms embargo that affects Libya, which means it’s a violation for any country to provide arms to anyone in Libya,” Crowley said.
“It would be illegal for the United States to do that,” he added.
However, he did not exclude a future Security Council resolution or some other action that would reverse the ban. “As events go forward, I can’t predict what is going to happen,” he said. - Reuters, AFP
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