Exclusive Interview: Gaddafi on Obama, Israel and Iran
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On Sept. 24, TIME editors Romesh Ratnesar and Michael Elliott met with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
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Given your experience in dealing what the United States offered
in return for giving up your [nuclear] program, what advice would you
give to a country like Iran? And what advice would you give to the
United States in dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions?
America has the responsibility to reward and encourage such countries
who take such decisions, so that they will be able to use nuclear
energy or nuclear power in peaceful means. (Watch the video of TIME’s interview with Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.)
Upon the advice of our American friends, and others, when they told
us to maybe get in touch with Pyongyang and Iran, and encourage them
and talk to them so that they would not go to the use of nuclear energy
for military purposes, divert the potentials of the capability they
have for peaceful means, the actions or the answers from those such
countries was, What did Libya gain in the trade?
Are you saying that Iranians and North Koreans don’t think that Libya got enough benefits for giving up its program?
Indeed that’s what they said to us. Indeed.
Libya spoke to both the Iranians and the North Koreans on this topic?
Yes, indeed. Of course, I mean we have conveyed to them the wish of the
friends, that they got in touch with us, mainly in the interest, the
wish that they would take the peaceful road.
You’re chairman of the African Union at the moment. You referred
to President Obama in your speech yesterday as the “son of Africa.” Do
you feel a kinship with President Obama? And what would you like the
United States to do in Africa?
Indeed this kinship is there, is existing.
Regarding the second part of the question, Africa, I mean there are
good intentions, legitimately speaking, particularly with international
governing toward Africa — some sort of sympathy.
In the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people you
have advocated a one-state solution. Many people criticize that kind of
idea as something that would lead to the end of Israel as a Jewish
state, a homeland for the Jews. Do you believe that Israel has a right
to exist as a Jewish state?
I am keen and anxious for the safety of both the Jews and the Palestinians.
The position that we are in, the road that the world is going on,
would lead to the destruction of the Jews. Because generally speaking,
Jews as a community are limited, their number is limited, all over the
world. We know that they’re not that big. Unfortunately, they were
persecuted by all nations. They were persecuted by the Romans and King
Edward I. And we all know the Holocaust during Hitler’s time. Once
seeing the history like that we can only but sympathize with them as
Jews. The Arabs actually were the ones who gave them the safe haven and
the protection along all these areas when they were persecuted. (See pictures of the rise of Gaddafi.)
As recent as ’48 or ’49 — I was a little boy at the time but I can
still remember — the Jews were there in Libya. There was no animosity,
no hatred between us. They were merchants, moving from one place to the
other, traders … and they were very much respected and very much
sympathized with. I mean, they did their own prayers and we saw them.
They spoke Arabic, wearing Libyan uniforms, Libyan clothes.
So that’s why I said, the way things are going, in the end they
would — it will be the eradication of them, or the extinction of such a
community. And I believe that the whole world is plotting against them,
against the Jews. They want to get rid of them, the world wants to. And
things that happened in the past indicate or give witness to this idea
or this notion. It was the Holocaust in Europe. We all know that, this
is a fact. (Read TIME’s 1981 cover story about Libya.)
So what is the answer?
The answer is as follows: That we have to serve God, or guarantee the
safety of the Jews. And this can be done by them accepting the
Palestinians, recognizing the Palestinians, accepting that fact that
they should live with the Palestinians in one state, together.
Unfortunately, the Jews are fighting or struggling against their own
friend — the Arabs. The Arabs did not do the Holocaust, and the Arabs
are not the Romans who persecuted them or massacred them. The only way
open for them is to accept the Arabs and to accept to live with them,
to co-exist with them. Because the establishment of a pure Hebrew state
is not in their own interest. That would be a target. Their protection
comes from being part of the Arab scene. Mixing with the Arabs. I
believe that the youth supports me, supports my idea … Investors
would prefer this mixing with the Arabs, being with the Arabs, living
with the Arabs, co-existing with the Arabs. But they have to accept
refugees that were kicked out in 1948. This is a fundamental thing, a
basic thing. Otherwise, war will continue, the struggle will continue.
Some Americans still view you, and view Libya, with some
suspicion, despite the normalization of relations. How can that
impression be changed and do you think it ever will change?
This is the result of accumulation of so many years of strained
relations between our two peoples and our two countries. It was
.. against us. It was very much exaggerated, this
information campaign, this sustained campaign against us. But if I may
… Over the process of years it will thaw out. I mean, just gradually
through contact, through dialogue, through investment.
I know that the Lockerbie case has come to a legal end,
but there are people in the United States who would still say, in 2003,
Libya accepted responsibility for its officials but it would be
wonderful if it was a heartfelt expression of remorse and an apology
for what happened. That might help thaw the ice.
It was always said that it is not us who did that and they don’t accept
the fact that they have a responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing. And
all the nonaligned nations used to support the Libyan claim. But we go
through the resolutions adopted by … more than 150 countries, both of
the resolutions of the Arab League, all of the resolutions adopted by
the African Union, all of the organizations … conflict resolutions.
But of course, Americans, Libyans, the whole world express sympathy
or regret over such tragedies. No one would be happy over such
tragedies, no one would welcome such a tragedy, indeed, of course. Do
the American people feel happy, are the American people happy over the
killing of the Libyan citizens in 1986? And is the world happy about
the Gaza massacre? By the same token none of us are happy over the
tragedy of Lockerbie. Up to now, if you visit the house that was bombed
in the American raid, you will find a picture of my daughter, a picture
of the daughter of Jim Swire, in a frame there, and everybody goes
there. Our children are all victims. I mean, these pictures, just to
say the fact that we are all fathers of victims.
Tell us about your impressions of America.
We didn’t see anything because of the security measures.
Is there any place in America that you have always wanted to see?
America is so afraid of terror and terrorism to the point that they
don’t allow people to move around freely and see what they wish to see.
I really wish to see the whole of America, if it is possible.