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Monday, April 18, 2011

Qaddafi's son remains defiant

TRIPOLI, April 18 : Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the influential second son of Moammar Gaddafi who was once seen as the great hope for reform in Libya, is clear on two points: He and his government have done nothing wrong, and they are not going to back down.

In an interview that reflected the defiance of the Gaddafi family more than two months into its efforts to put down a rebellion supported by the United States and its allies, the 38-year-old said the world had gone to war with Libya based on nothing more than rumor and propaganda.

In Saif Gaddafi's telling, he has been betrayed by his "best friend," who defected to join the rebels. His father's government is besieged by al-Qaeda. And President Obama has proved no different from his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The comments underscore the uncompromising stance of the Libyan government at a time when the fighting has stalemated and NATO faces internal squabbling. Although there had been indications this month that Saif Gaddafi was interested in a diplomatic solution to the crisis that has divided his nation, his tone during an hour-long interview suggested that the core decision-makers in Tripoli are in no hurry to find a political way out.

In Saif Gaddafi's view, Obama has it all wrong.

"We want the Americans tomorrow to send a fact-finding mission to find out what happened in Libya. We want Human Rights Watch to come here and to find out exactly what happened," he said. "We are not afraid of the International Criminal Court. We are confident and sure that we didn't commit any crime against our people."

Relaxing on a lounge chair in a turtleneck sweater this weekend, Saif Gaddafi spoke confidently in fluent English without any advisers present. Every word was uttered with the passion of absolute conviction, every question parried with a version of events that contradicts conclusions
reached by observers.

He says his father's opponents are brutal terrorists and gangsters, led by al-Qaeda, who will soon collapse under their internal divisions. He deems evidence that his forces fired on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators and killed hundreds of them as categorically false.

The younger Gaddafi drew a comparison to the reports of weapons of mass destruction that Bush cited in the run-up to the war in Iraq. "It's exactly like the WMD," Saif Gaddafi said. "WMD, WMD, WMD, go and attack Iraq. Civilians, civilians, civilians, go and attack Libya. It's the same thing."

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