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Interview with Saif Gaddafi

Aired May 26, 2010 - 16:49:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is behind some of Libya's biggest decisions and is often credited with helping to shed the country's reputation as a haven for terrorists.

But Saif Gaddafi insists that he has no designs on the job his father held for 40 years, as leader of Libya.

The Western educated Saif has been the driving force behind Libya's economic boom and its opening up to foreign investment. He's negotiated deals worth millions of dollars and helped bring U.S. oil companies back to the country. He's also an open advocate of democracy -- a vision at odds with the way his father runs Libya.

But he's not always the darling of the West. Saif recently made headlines with his controversial embrace of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, who was released from prison in Scotland after serving a long sentence for his involvement in the Lockerbie bombing.

The face of modern Libya, Saif Gaddafi is your Connector of the Day.


ANDERSON: Well, as we just mentioned, Saif's recent endorsement of the Lockerbie bombing aroused anger around the world.

When I spoke to him earlier, I asked him if that bothered him.

This is what he said.


SAIF GADDAFI, SON OF MOAMMAR GADDAFI: First, I think he's innocent.

Second, one day -- and one day the whole world will know -- discover the -- the truth about Lockerbie.

Third, he's a very sick man. He has cancer. And he really is in very serious condition.

And so it was really immoral for the people to be unhappy with me and -- and unhappy with his return to Libya.

ANDERSON: Was his release linked to a trade deal?

GADDAFI: I have mentioned this many times before. I have -- there is no direct link. And the decision was based no compassionate reasons. People, they try to manipulate my statements and my words in order to use it for their political fight here in London.

ANDERSON: Zachary has written to us. He says: "Is Libya ready for the democratic future that you have talked about in the past?"

GADDAFI: Well, I think every country is ready for democracy. I cannot say this -- these people is ready and that people are not ready. So of course we are ready.

But the question is what kind of democracy?

Will it be more freedom, more democracy, more that people will be participating more in the political game in Libya?

But if you talk to me about political parties, about a free election today, of course, I will -- I will say not. Not because I cannot invent parties and I cannot invent the political environment in Libya over one night. You need time to create the right environment for -- for Libya to have a moment like any other country.

ANDERSON: Let me ask a question from Ifeoluwa King, who's written to us. And he says: "If you were to succeed your father, what would you do differently? And do you think his clinging onto power is right?," he asks.

GADDAFI: Of course, in the -- in the last 40 -- 40 years, there were a lot of mistakes, of course. Even during the monarchy, there were mistakes. And I think one of the big mistakes, I think that -- I mean since the independence of Libya in -- in the '50s, that the state and the government didn't foster and -- and -- and support a civil society and political parties and -- and created the right environment for a democratic system in Libya. So it was a mistake during the monarchy and during the revolution.

ANDERSON: I've got a number of questions about civil society and about democratic institutions. A lot of viewers, though, have asked something along these lines.

How do you respond to accusations that your father is corrupt and that he is giving Libya a bad reputation?

GADDAFI: He lives in a tent. He has no bank account in Switzerland, like many other rulers. I mean he doest wear expensive clothes. He has no yachts. He is not spending money on jewelry or gold or shopping in Harrods's.

So he is very modest and straight person. But many people, they disagree with him politically and they have their right to disagree with him. But to say he's corrupt, of course not.

ANDERSON: You've talked about the fact that there is no transparency in politics in Libya at this point.

Do you see a role for yourself in the leadership of Libya going forward?

GADDAFI: Of course, I'm -- I'm active now in -- in my country because the -- A, I'm Libyan and this is my country and the Libyans are my people -- are my people. So I have to be active and they have to help and they have to contribute to the reforming process -- Libya and doing this not alone, but with thousands of young Libyans. And we are all working together.

ANDERSON: Daud R. has written to us, Saif. He says: "How do you suggest that the Muslim world play a more significant role in the future world economy without the leverage of oil as a currency?"

GADDAFI: Again, the story of the oil curse. And we are suffering in Libya from this curse. And, by the way, I mean in Libya, I think, we run out of oil in maybe 20 years, 25 years. There will be no oil in Libya. But we have to prepare ourselves from now for that -- for that day.

ANDERSON: The last question from Rami from Marseilles. He says: "You've been very outspoken on the plight of the Palestinians in the past. Can we expect you," he says, "to be at the vanguard of the new generation of Arab leaders who will help resolve this conflict?"

GADDAFI: I'm doing my best to -- to help our brothers in Palestine. But they have to help themselves. And they have to unite. And they have to solve their own problems.


ANDERSON: Interesting, huh?

Your questions to Saif Gaddafi.

Fascinating stuff from the future of Libya and where -- and what he sees his role as -- how he sees himself involved in the years to come.

Well, our next Connector of the Day will be keeping a close eye on the Gulf of Mexico and the progress of the "top kill" operation. Tune in tomorrow to hear from Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the legendary marine biologist, Jacques Cousteau. Philippe has even been diving in an area of the Gulf affected by the oil spill, which he says was an absolute nightmare.

If you've got any questions for the renowned conservationist, do head to the site,

Remember, don't forget to tell us where you're writing to us from. Let us know what you want to ask. I'll put the best to Mr. Cousteau tomorrow.