After appearing to consolidate its hold on the capital, the Libyan government is struggling to show that it retains both the upper hand and widespread legitimacy throughout the country.
In an interview late Monday with the Los Angeles Times, Seif Islam Kadafi, son of Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, spoke extensively about how his government views the current crisis in his country, where opponents have wrested control of the eastern city of Benghazi and other parts of the country from the regime.
Above all, he said, Libyan people want “peace and security,” which he said only the government in Tripoli can provide.
“We have to go and help them,” he said of those in the east. “They are simple people, farmers, ordinary men. They want peace security, children to go to school, want to eat, drink. No one wants the chaos.”
The leaders of the opposition, he said, are either misguided or dangerous.
“They are intellectuals,” he said. “They talk about freedom, democracy, etc. We agree with it. But then you have other people who are terrorists, with heavy arms and a tank. Don’t expect them to talk about democracy.”
So far, Seif Islam said, the Libyan government has not entered into any dialogue with those in Benghazi because their leaders are too divided.
“it’s a big mess,” he said.
Below are more excerpts from the interview.
How would you describe the situation in Libya now?
You are in Tripoli now. You are in the biggest city of Libya, where half of the population is, so everything is OK. You can go outside, you look, you realize everything is calm. I want you to go around Tripoli, to go to other cities. Everything is fine. There is a little bit of mess in the east. But it will be solved soon.
They are saying that Libyan air force is bombing civilian districts, the Libyan air force bombing demonstrations, killing civilians, that there are thousands of casualties. … Go to those districts and interview people and ask them about everything. Take your camera. Show me a single attack, a single bomb. … Whatever you hear is pure rumors. Go to those areas. Show me the bombs we dropped, the houses we destroyed, the civilians we killed. Ask people, film, take photos.
Aren’t your people merely demanding more rights?
What happened happened in two cities because the police killed dozens of demonstrators, who by the way tried to attack the police station. Most of the killings happened in front of police headquarters. Police panicked and fired in Benghazi and Beida.
Beida is very calm now. The rest of the east is calm. The whole south is OK, the middle is OK, the oil is OK, the west is OK. The biggest cities are in the west, not east. Seventy percent of the population lives in this area. Everything is OK here. They just exaggerate.
Who are your enemies?
Terrorists who took advantage of the situation. They took munitions from the army. Now they are armed. But they are in very limited areas, in small numbers. You can go and film them. They have heavy machine guns.
Images on the Internet and on YouTube show demonstrations, injuries and bodies at the morgue.
People got killed. We have the numbers. A few hundred got killed, of course. But 90% died either in front of police stations or in front of military sites while trying to steal ammunition, so the military attacked them. So most of the casualties happened because people attacked military and police sites.
Americans want a dialogue with the opposition. What do you think of that?
They are naïve. These leaders are nothing in these areas. Sometimes you see someone on TV saying, “I am a leader.” These are people who used to work with us.
What are the motives of those who defected to the opposition?
They want to work with every regime. They are opportunists. Last week they were with us. Today they are against us.
Why do you believe Al Jazeera would be hostile to you?
They think we are bad to them. They think it’s their time to take revenge.
What do you feel when you see people in Benghazi waving the pre-Kadafi flag of Libya?
We have no problem with this flag. One day it was the Libyan flag. It’s not the flag of Israel.
People complain about old political figures. Don’t you think it’s time for your dad to retire?
My dad does not want to run the country. He said it last month. He said it’s time for young people to run the country through the Libyan law and constitution. But with chaos, you get nothing. so everything should be calm and young people should be in charge.
If you say things are going back to normal, why are so many people leaving Libya?
They are listening to all these TV channels. It’s a bombardment; it’s a real media war against us. If you listened to those TV channels, you would be afraid too. LAT