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Rebels Take Over Libyan Capital of Tripoli; Interview with Ali Aujali

Aired August 22, 2011 - 00:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're staying on top of this story. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington, CNN's coverage of the Libya uprising continues right now.

MANISHA TANK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today, here in Hong Kong I'm Manisha Tank.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it's midnight here at CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Jonathan Mann. We want to welcome our international viewers and our viewers here in the United States. We begin with breaking news out of Libya. It is 6 a.m. in Tripoli and the sun is rising on what appears to be a new day for Libya. Libyan rebels say they've renamed Green Square at the center of the capitol city calling it Martyr's Square now.

Hours ago it was the scene of jubilation over what could soon be the fall of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. However, the square is quieter now. There is concern that snipers would be in that area of the city. Here are the latest developments.

Anti-Gadhafi forces say they're now in control of most parts of Tripoli but the rebels caution that there's still some pockets of resistance in the capitol. Currently, Gadhafi's own whereabouts are unknown. There have been rumors that he has fled Libya. Other rumors say he is still in the country. No one seems to know for sure.

It appears two of Colonel Gadhafi's sons are under arrest. Opposition leaders and other sources say rebel forces have captured the sons, Saif and Saadi Gadhafi.

TANK: And, as those opposition forces closed in on the capitol on Sunday a defiant Moammar Gadhafi broadcast yet another pep talk to his supporters.


MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER: Do you remember the million marches. I am with you, alongside with you in this fight. We are not going to give away or give up.


TANK: And it appears that Colonel Gadhafi's bodyguards did not share his conviction. The brigade in charge of his security has laid down their arms and surrendered to those rebels. Well, as the Libyan rebels closed in on Sunday, a spokesman for the embattled Gadhafi regime insisted that NATO fighters were turning the capitol city into a hell fire. At a news conference, Moussa Ibrahim blamed NATO for all those who had lost their lives in the fighting.


MOUSSA IBRAHIM: Every blood - every drop of Libyan bloodshed by these rebels is the responsibility of the western world. And especially NATO's countries. So we will hold Mr. Obama, Mr. Cameron, and Mr. Sarkozy morally responsible for every single unnecessary death that takes place in this country.


MANN: That was Gadhafi government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim speaking to reporters Sunday while Libyan rebels were pushing through Tripoli. Joining us now from CNN Washington is Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson.

Nic, one of the astonishing things is the way the Libyan army has dissolved, especially in tripoli itself. The city is extremely quiet. It has been overnight except for some celebration. The rebels have set up roadblocks and I gather some of the success in the orderly conquest of that city lies with a group called the Tripoli Brigade that was prepared just for this day. Can you tell us about it?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in Tripoli you had, while we were there, when the NATO bombing began and Gadhafi's forces and his loyalists still felt they controlled the capitol, a sort of ring of steel around it, the brigade there that was controlling the capitol was able to sort of draw on munitions from multiple bases within inside the city that had become, over the months, NATO's principle targets for airstrikes in the city, ammunition stores there. And Sara Sidner will have driven today, as she has overnight from Zawiya into Tripoli, she came right past one of the most feared bases of one of Gadhafi's brigades controlled by his son, (INAUDIBLE), who were originally the force that went into Zawiya when they first -- Gadhafi's forces first crushed the rebels there.

The fact that there wasn't any resistance there. The fact this ring of steel that we've seen tanks on the personnel carriers evaporated really gives rise to the -- to the perception here of (a) how the rebels are able to get into the city so quickly but how Gadhafi himself maybe called out in surprise at just how quickly people have deserted him or proven not to be loyal. The writing has been on the wall for these forces and now it seems that they have, in fact, collapsed and that will enable rebels throughout the city, the people of the city who don't want Gadhafi, who have been too afraid to come out on the streets because they don't have the weapons will now realize that the fake military machine that they have so feared to a degree has melted away.

Of course, we don't know the details and we don't know the parameters of the areas that Gadhafi's forces, those still loyal to him, still control. Certainly, there seems to be some of them in the city at this time, Jonathan?

MANN: Now Libya is an oil rich country with what, 140 different tribes and clans and prominent families, which is to say there are a lot of people who have potentially something to fight over if they want to fight each other now. What do you think is going to happen? Is the transition going to be as smooth as it suddenly seems?

ROBERTSON: The military transition may be -- may be quick and may appear to be smooth in the initial analysis and securing control in Tripoli and other cities will be sort of the most immediate need but -- but getting a political consensus beyond that is going to be difficult. You have a traditional east-west split within the country, that's historic. You have a lot of the rebels coming from the east of the country. You've had tribes that have been loyal to Gadhafi like the Zanussi tribe, the tribe at the head of intelligence is from, Abdullah Zanussi, wanted by the International Criminal Court, the right-hand man of Gadhafi really in controlling the country.

That tribe has always held a powerful position in government. What are they going to settle for now? Will those tribes that have -- powerful and had power in the past that have sat on the sidelines, will the rebels want to take them in and give them political power? We know that the rebels have disparate views. There are Islamist elements. There are sort of more moderate liberal elements. There are perhaps other elements within -- within the Transitional National Council as we know it today and politicians that I've talked to who've fled Libya say that the political makeup and tribal makeup is very diverse and this is what may -- may slow the -- the sort of arrival if you will or the announcement of any sort of transitional government.

So, there are many, many hurdles. This initial phase, the military phase isn't over, may be the simplest one and, of course, a counter insurgency by Gadhafi loyalists cannot be ruled out at this phase or perhaps in the coming months. Jonathan?

MANN: You mentioned a -- a phrase and it has a bureaucratic ring to it but it's a crucial phrase. The Transitional National Council. Many governments around the world say they know who the rightful leaders of Libya are, that's the Transitional National Council. Well, who are they?

ROBERTSON: Well, this is essentially the rebel leadership. Essentially, they are people that have -- that came to the rebel side, former government ministers, the former Libyan Ambassador to the United Nations now with the Transitional National Council. Some of them are former government figures. Some of them like the General who was recently killed, a senior figure within the Transitional National Council suddenly killed very recently over the past few weeks was a loyalist to Gadhafi but had switched sides.

You have people, Libyan businessmen who have lived in exile in the United States and other countries. They've joined the Transitional National Council. They've been able to lobby the State Department. What the State Department has said is that it expects this Transitional National Council to be a transition to something else, to a -- a government that's more representative of the whole country and when we look at the Transitional National Council right now and the international pressures on it, they do seem to have custody of Saif al-Islam al-Gadhafi, one of Gadhafi's sons. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court. Will this prove the first test of how they're going to respond to international expectations and pressure? The pressure to do the right thing by the country, not to grab and hold power by the small group that exists today but to build a -- a consensus and a political -- and a political aspiration across the whole country, not just those who fought on the rebel side. Jonathan?

MANN: CNN's Nic Robertson. Thanks very much. Well, all this began six months ago but suddenly it is in the capitol and the rebel momentum pushing towards Tripoli came from different directions over those months including, most recently, the key city of Zawiya, just west of the capitol. Our Sara Sidner traveled with rebel forces from Zawiya to Tripoli. She is now back in Zawiya and joins us live. I -- I gather it's just after 6 a.m. in the morning there. That's a quiet time in most places around the world but let me ask you, what's going on there right now? Is there any sign of the fighting or the turmoil that this country has been through?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right at this second roosters are crowing here in Zawiya and that's the loudest sound in the city but just a few moments ago we -- we heard some heavy arms fire going off and that, though, really is celebratory fire. We've heard quite a bit of that over the last few hours from this area and also as you go into Tripoli. We drove that coastal road, the very important road that connects Tripoli with Zawiya and connects Tripoli with supplies, supplies of fuel, supplies of food, and that road, the rebels have. The rebels went all the way into the city. We got all the way into Green Square in really about 35 minutes. A very quick drive. There's nothing really to stop you. There are a few checkpoints along the way.

What one thing we should note, in Green Square when we got into the square they were checking inside the vehicle, who are you, who are you, but once you get into the square, it's interesting, we were kind of expecting to see more -- to see more fighters there and what we saw is kind of a hodgepodge group of fighters in different areas. However, we do know that the so-called Tripoli Brigades, these are people who are from Tripoli but left the city or lived outside the city in other parts of the world who decided they wanted to come back, that they wanted to fight when the time was right, obviously, that was decided.

But, according to rebels here in Zawiya, they had no idea that they would win the battles here as quickly as they did and they told us they were surprised that they were able to get into Tripoli so easily. They were expecting more of a fight from the Gadhafi regime. Now, that does not mean that there might not still be a big fight in store but, interestingly, all of this -- the speeches that were coming from Moammar Gadhafi about having thousands and ten thousand professional fighters in the area and telling other people to rise up, we didn't see really any of that. When we got into Green Square it was quiet except for a few people blasting off celebratory rounds in the air. It's very interesting to see what's happening. No one imagined that it would be this easy for this group of untrained, mostly untrained, rebel fighters, many of them civilians before this happened six months ago, coming into the middle of the square where Gadhafi is really supposed to have his stronghold. We should, though, mention that the rebels say they do not fully control Tripoli but they're working on it. Jonathan?

MANN: Well, let me ask you more about that. That's really the big question. It may be difficult for you to judge from your vantage point but how much of Tripoli, how much of Libya as a whole do the rebels actually control?

SIDNER: Well now that they're in Tripoli, this all could change, this could be the real big game changer as you might imagine because, you know, for so long there had been reports and disputes from the government, the rebels would say that they have control of one place and then the government would say, no, we have control of the same place and then, of course, as journalists, we would go into those places to try to determine who was telling the truth, who had what, and it was always very tricky to try to figure that information out. But, now that they're in Tripoli and that's being reported all over the world and inside of Libya, very difficult for the Gadhafi regime to say that they have control of anything at this point in time with the rebels now inside the city.

So, it is something to note that this could be a real game changer. We don't know what Gadhafi has in store, if anything, for those fighters who have made it into the capitol, Jonathan, but certainly, one of the big things that is going to come up next, even though we may be a bit away from it, is who will run this country and how will this country move forward if, indeed, the Gadhafi regime totally collapses? That's a big question mark. There is the National Transitional Council that is based out of the east in Benghazi but there's a lot of questions about who exactly may lead this country, whether it's one person or a group of people for a while until they can have free and clear elections which the National Transitional Council has spoken of before. That's what they want to do, be an interim type of government. A lot of questions unanswered but, certainly, a lot of celebrating by rebel forces and civilians who back the rebels here in the country.

MANN: Sara Sidner who's been traveling with the rebels on the wave of their extraordinary events. Thanks very much. Manisha?

TANK: There's been some extraordinary reporting as well. So, let's take it now to Ali Suleiman Aujali who is the new Libyan Ambassador to Washington, representing Libya's Transitional National Council. He joins us now from our Washington bureau. Mr. Aujali, thank you, Ambassador, for joining us. I mean, let's pick up on the last issue there that Sara raised and the operative question right now, who is going to run this country? How are you going to run it when you make it?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI, LIBYAN AMBASSADOR TO WASHINGTON: The TNC is going to run the country. They will move to Tripoli as soon as possible and they are preparing. I think everything is ready for the election of the temporary council and, of course, they have to take care of the security of the city and they, of course, there is our concern now of where is Gadhafi? We have to find out where is he and I believe very much in what the TNC is doing, I think the takeover of Tripoli today it is amazing, I never expected, and I believe now Gadhafi's hands are paralyzed because two of his sons, they are captured and I don't think that that would be a major issue with Gadhafi's more resistance.

In the meantime, (INAUDIBLE) made it very clear they are ready for any -- for any changes happening and they are ready for any surprises and, you know, the celebration and the people that are getting together. I think that it is a historical moment in the life of the Libyan people.

TANK: You raised the issue there of Gadhafi's sons. Now, what will you do with them and what will the Libyan people want done with them?

AUJALI: Well, it is a very difficult question, you know, the Libyan people, I think they want to bring them to justice and at the same time the ICC, they want them too and I believe the choice for the Libyan people to have the right, you know, what they want to do with them and that will be decided, I think, in this coming maybe few weeks, you know, or few months. It's very difficult to say at the present time. But, I have very good news from al-Brega now. I understand that the Gadhafi Brigades, they raised the white flag and the revolutionary and the national army there, they were entered the third section, what they called the -- the industrial area, and this means Libya is under control of the TNC now.

TANK: Ok, very strong statement there, Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali, thank you so much for joining us on World Report.

AUJALI: Thanks. Thanks.

TANK: Still to come on this program, the celebrations in Libya heard and seen in capitols around the world. Reactions up next on CNN, the world's news leader.


TANK: So this was the scene in Benghazi just a short time ago with the Libyan's celebrating in Freedom Square. Witnesses say thousands of people were in the square. Benghazi was the scene of some of the first protests against the Gadhafi government. It also is the seat of the rebel leadership, the Transitional National Council. Well, U.S. President Barack Obama is vacationing on Martha's Vineyard, an island off the state of Massachusetts. Officials have been briefing the President on the latest developments in Libya and on Sunday evening

Mr. Obama issued a statement saying that the Gadhafi regime has reached a tipping point. Mr. Obama added that the surest way for the bloodshed to end is simple. Moammar Gadhafi and his regime need to recognize their rule has come to an end. The statement said Gadhafi needs to relinquish power once and for all. The President said the future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people. So, let's get more on this U.S. reaction to the events unfolding. We turn to CNN World Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty. She's at the State Department in Washington.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: As the fighting rages on the ground the White House and the State Department are looking carefully at the possible next steps after Gadhafi. The President tonight, President Obama saying that the TNC, the Transitional National Council that has led the rebels so far, should continue to demonstrate leadership. He said they should respect the rights of the people, avoid civilian casualties, protect the institutions of the Libyan state and pursue a transition to democracy that is just and inclusive. Those are all important issues as they move to what is the next step and that is creating an interim authority.

This interim authority would be in charge until elections could be held in six to eight months but there are complications. One of them is the fact that Libya is a tribal country, many tribes, and a power struggle could ensue after Gadhafi is gone. Also, loyalties. Questions could be asked, who was loyal, who was not to Gadhafi. Finally, oil and the revenues that have been frozen that now will be given to the TNC. All of these issues could make that transition very complicated so as this fighting rages on the ground, the State Department and the White House will be looking very carefully and hoping that the TNC will follow through on the commitments it's already made. Jill Dougherty, CNN, Washington.

TANK: Well, Britain is one of the pillars of NATO's mission in Libya. Prime Minister David Cameron has released a statement on the fast- moving event. He says, "It is clear from the scenes we are witnessing in Tripoli that the end is near for Gadhafi." The statement goes on to say that he's committed appalling crimes against the people of Libya and he must go now to avoid any further suffering for his people.

France, meanwhile, took the early lead when NATO began military operations against Libya. That was on March 19th. French and British Air Force planes began regular punishing bomb attacks on the country. Now, as rebels begin taking control of Tripoli, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been urging Moammar Gadhafi to give up immediately what power he has left. In a statement from Paris, Mr. Sarkozy said Gadhafi should avoid having the Libyan people endure more suffering unnecessarily. And he urged Gadhafi to order soldiers still loyal to him to lay down their weapons and return to their barracks.

The French President also commended the courage of the rebel fighters as they fight for control of the country. We're going to have much more on this moving situation on World Report. It's all coming right up after this short break.


MANN: Welcome back. Let's update you now in the situation in Libya where people were celebrating in parts of Tripoli overnight. Anti- Gadhafi forces announced that they were in control of most of the Libyan capitol but the rebels cautioned that there are still some pockets of resistance in the city. Embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's own whereabouts are unknown right now. It appears two of Colonel Gadhafi's sons are under arrest.

Opposition leaders and other sources say rebel forces have captured the sons Saif and Saadi Gadhafi.

TANK: Well, earlier this morning, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen released a statement saying that Moammar Gadhafi's rule is "clearly crumbling." NATO also responded to a demand from the Libyan government spokesperson that the military alliance stop bombing Libyan targets. Here is what NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu told our (INAUDIBLE).


OANA LUNGESCU, NATO SPOKESPERSON: Those responsible for starting the bloodshed in Libya are the Gadhafi regime. As the United Nations Security Council resolution made very clear the mandate to NATO is to continue protecting civilians and civilian populated areas against attacks and the threat of attacks and what we've seen consistently, systematically, and brutally are attacks by the Gadhafi regime ever since February and NATO has consistently implemented that mandate and we have saved countless lives since we started this mission.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, as far as you're concerned, what is the way out of this situation?

LUNGESCU: Well, I think what we are seeing tonight is that the regime is crumbling and the sooner that Moammar Gadhafi realizes that there's no way that he can win this war against his people that he has started the better for everyone so that the Libyan people can start a transition to democracy that they want and they deserve and they can start that sooner rather than later.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what I got from my interview with Moussa Ibrahim is that basically they are worried about retaliation and they -- it seemed to me that what he was saying is that they cannot give up the battle because they mean that they will be killed by the other side. So, what can actually be done to get out of this impasse?

LUNGESCU: Well, NATO is (INAUDIBLE) the United Nations Security Council mandate and that is to protect civilians, to enforce a no fly zone and an arms embargo. It is for the United Nations and the contact group to take the leading role in negotiating a political solution to this conflict and that political solution has been on the table for many months now and the Gadhafi regime has consistently refused it and if the -- the Gadhafi regime has been using human shields, it's been using mosques and hospitals and children's playgrounds as shields for continued attacks and what you are seeing now on the ground is, to a certain extent, the cumulative effect of NATO's action over the past five months or so. We've taken out over 4000 legitimate military targets. We've degraded Gadhafi's capacity to attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TANK: And it's NATO that's been enforcing a no fly zone and arms embargo and has bombed Libyan government forces as part of its mission to protect civilian lives in Libya's civil war. Jon?

MANN: In fact, NATO started Operation United Protector back on March 31st. Since then, NATO planes have flown more than 15,000 sorties. That number includes more than 7000 air strike missions. NATO says it's enforcing the U.N. mandated arms embargo and no fly zone and, as Manisha just said, protecting civilians.

Well, the rag-tag rebellion that fought for months finds itself in control of Tripoli as Monday dawns. More World Report after this break. You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.


MANN: Welcome back to World Report. I'm Jonathan Mann at CNN Center in Atlanta.

TANK: And I'm Manisha Tank in Hong Kong and we want to welcome our international viewers as well as our viewers in the United States. Well, events have been unfolding fast and furious in Libya, so here are the latest developments for you. There have been celebrations in the capitol, Tripoli, over what could soon be the fall of long-time Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Anti-Gadhafi forces say they're now in control of most parts of Tripoli but the rebels cautioned there are still some pockets of resistance in the city. Colonel Gadhafi's whereabouts are unknown. There have been plenty of rumors but no one seems to know for sure.

Opposition leaders say they've captured two of his sons, Saif and Saadi Gadhafi. So, this was the scene in Benghazi a little bit earlier as thousands of Libyans celebrated in Freedom Square. Benghazi was where some of the first protests against the Gadhafi government even began. It's also the seat of the rebel leadership, that is the Transitional National Council.

As all of this has been unfolding, we have been able to speak with some Libyans who say they're ready for change and one young woman says the country has been through 40 years of hell. This is the pure joy that change has brought to this 19-year-old living in the capitol city.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is something that we've all been dreaming of forever. The second this started, everyone was so happy. It was something we've been waiting for. We were living in fear for the past four decades. Now, all of a sudden you can go out and say what you want, say what you feel, I can talk on the phone without being scared that they're going to come in and take me.


MANN: Another resident of Tripoli is joining us now on the line. Thanks so much for talking with us. Let me ask you, where were you last night as the rebels moved in? What are your plans for today? Can you hear us? We're hearing what sounds like gunfire now.


MANN: Hello. Can you hear us? We're hearing what sounds like gunfire or is that you breathing into the phone? We're just trying to get a sense of what's happening in Tripoli this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, it's gunfire. It's gunfire. That's what you're hearing.

MANN: Tell us about that. Can you tell who's firing the guns? How far away they are? Who they're firing at?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I have no idea. I'm not quite sure. I'm hoping that it's victory gunshots as I'm pretty sure you guys heard that the Martyr's square now belongs to the freedom fighters and not to the Gadhafi soldiers any more. All of our freedom fighters are there celebrating so that's what I'm hoping the gunfire is, just signs of victory.

MANN: Have you, yourself, looked out or been out recently? Can you tell us what's going on in your neighborhood in the streets around you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we went out from the (INAUDIBLE) and from the windows here but haven't been out on the street since it's not really safe for females to go out yet. But, it's exciting, it's exciting. We're all really excited and I don't -- there isn't words to express my excitement right now.

MANN: I can only imagine. But you say it's not safe for women to go out. We have seen through our correspondents and the video that we have seen very few people in the streets of Tripoli, only the rebels, only the fighters. It doesn't seem like the people of the city itself have really been able to venture out. Is that -- is that the case?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes, because we -- we haven't completely (INAUDIBLE) Colonel Gadhafi. We're still -- we're in our final stages. We're waiting for, well, I think the last group is coming down from the mountains have arrived and they are going to be cleaning up the streets and making checkpoints to make sure that everything is safe and once we know that everything is safe we will be all out in Martyr's Square chanting anti-Gadhafi slogans and finally we celebrating the freedom that we all deserve.

MANN: Well, just to come back to -- to your own remark about your own safety why, as a woman, don' t you feel it's safe quite yet? Are you afraid of the fighters, all the men who -- who have poured into the city?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes, of course. Yes. All of the men have arms, they're all armed. Obviously, six months ago we didn't want it to be like this. We only went out asking for our freedom, expecting it to go down easily without so much fire and death and casualties. It didn't go down as we expected but since the old regime, the previous regime, sorry, decided that he was going to shoot at us we needed to defend ourselves and shoot back and now all of the freedom fighters are well equipped in comparison to the previous six months and so that's the only people that are allowed out. No one -- no one without weapons is allowed out or should be out anyway.

MANN: Is it hard for people to simply get food, to get water, to get gasoline, the electricity that they need? I'm just curious about the 2 million people who live in Tripoli, how they're getting by right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's been hard for the past six months but it's not hard now. Right now, I'm pretty sure that we're all capable of sitting down without electricity, without food, without water, without gasoline, we're all capable of doing it for another two days just so that he leaves and lets us live our freedom.

MANN: Do you think it will be just two days? Moammar Gadhafi has held onto power for 42 years. Do you think this is now over or do you expect, do you fear that he will fight to stay in place?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I think we proved that we're smarter than him at the end of the day. He proved to us that he doesn't know who we are and we proved to him that we're a lot better than him and we're a lot smarter. It might have been a long six months and with many death but at the end of the day we're the ones that's right and got all these make sure that the people are right when ...

MANN: Well, we're not going to identify you but anyone listening to this conversation can tell that you're a young woman so let me ask you as a young person, how much has your life changed because of what's happened over the last six months or what's happened over just the last two days?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you don't -- we just got our internet back tonight and it's been gone since March. I was looking at my -- the past Facebook messages that we'd been sending and what we were worried about. It's not -- and like, the past things that we -- I was talking about with my friends, it's like we were such children. Everything -- everything is just so different. We're looking at life in such a different way and I can say that on behalf of every Libyan, everyone is just looking at life in such a different way. We have different goals. We're all different people. We're all better. We're all happier all of a sudden and it's not even the end yet and we're all -- we all grew up if that's the right word to say, we're all mature.

MANN: Reflecting on Facebook and the fight for freedom, it's extraordinary to hear from you. Thanks so much for talking with us. Well Moammar Gadhafi has confounded the international community for decades. He's known, of course, for his colorful and flamboyant clothing, his eccentricities, his long fiery speeches. That might seem bizarre and amusing enough. He was also, he has long been both calculating and deadly. Hala Gorani now has a profile of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As a 27-year-old Army officer, Moammar Gadhafi overthrew Libya's king in 1969 and then set about wiping all foreign influence from the country, including all vestiges of Communism or Capitalism, publishing his personal philosophy in a three volume green book. Gadhafi always said that his goal was to change the world, but it was the way he set out to do it that amused, confused, and often infuriated.

Gadhafi said that he wanted to unite the Arab world and even proclaimed a merger with Libya, Egypt, and Syria in 1972. That merger plan fell apart. A later merger attempt with Tunisia disintegrated into bitter animosity. Maintaining a colorful profile wherever he went he made a point of emphasizing his Bedouin roots, sleeping in tents protected by an eye-catching female security detail. His speeches were legendary for both length and bombast. This 2009 speech at the U.N. was typical.


MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER: We are not committed to obey the rules or the resolutions of the Security Council because it is undemocratic and ...


GORANI: What was supposed to be a 15-minute talk rambled on more than 90 minutes. But, while he sometimes appeared a clown on the world stage his actions were often deadly. In the mid 80s he funneled money and weapons to support the Palestine Liberation Organization's fight against Israel, the Irish Republican Army's efforts to defeat British rule in Northern Ireland. And he viciously targeted Americans. In 1986 Libyan agents were accused of bombing a Berlin nightclub killing two Americans and a Turk. U.S. President Ronald Reagan responded by bombing Tripoli, targeting Gadhafi's house. The raid killed more than 100 people, including Gadhafi's own daughter.

Two years later, Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over the tiny village of Lockerbie, Scotland, raining debris and taking 270 lives. Investigators traced the attack to Libya. When Libya refused to turn over the suspect, the U.N. imposed tough sanctions leaving the country isolated and increasing destitute. After 11 years as an international outcast, Gadhafi cut a deal. He gave up the Lockerbie bombing suspect for trial and after the U.S. invaded Iraq, he surprised the world by agreeing to destroy all of his chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons.

Gadhafi soon welcomed western oil companies like BP and (INAUDIBLE) into Libya but questions lingered about whether some western oil contracts were traded for Scotland's release of one of the convicted Lockerbie bombers. And he didn't give up the bizarre behavior. On a 2009 visit to Italy he invited 200 models to his Ambassador's house, paying each $75 to listen to lectures on Islam and giving each a copy of the Koran.

Back home, patience was running thin. After more than 40 years, rebellion bubbled up in the eastern part of the country, quickly spreading across Libya. As his government disintegrated, he addressed the nation from the same house bombed by the U.S. in 1986.

(VIDEO CLIP) MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER: This is my country, the country of my grandfathers.


GORANI: He vowed to die a martyr in Libya. Hala Gorani, CNN.

TANK: Well, as that rebel noose tightens around Tripoli, the Libyan leader Gadhafi's options are growing increasingly limited. One possibility for him is exile. A rebel spokesman says Colonel Gadhafi has asked the governments of neighboring countries for refuge for family members but apparently not for himself. Outside of Libya, meanwhile, Gadhafi has had a strong supporter in Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and, meanwhile, the International Criminal Court wants Gadhafi to answer for crimes against humanity. And Gadhafi seems determined to stay in Libya to the end.

So, up next, a civil war in Libya. The man at the center is an enigma to many. Coming up, personal impressions of the Libyan leader.


MANN: Welcome back. Updating you now on the situation in Libya. Rebels celebrated in parts of Tripoli as anti-Gadhafi forces announced that they are in control of most of the Libyan capitol. Dozens of cars with rebel flags sped into Tripoli earlier today but the rebels cautioned that there are still some pockets of resistance in the city. Right now, embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's whereabouts are unknown. We last heard from him Sunday when he broadcast a defiant speech. It appears two of Colonel Gadhafi's sons are under arrest. Opposition leaders and other sources say rebel forces have captured the sons Saadi Gadhafi and his brother Saif al-Islam Gadhafi. Prosecutors for the International Criminal Court say they hope to put Saif Gadhafi on trial.

TANK: Well, let's just for a moment turn our attention to another big story that has been making news in the last few weeks and this is the rollercoaster that we've seen play out in the markets that's the start of a new trading week on those global markets. After what's been a pretty turbulent time for equities, here's what's happening across Asia. We've got those major indexes swinging into negative territory. It's still pretty volatile out there and we have the (INAUDIBLE) down more than 0.2 of 1%, one-tenth -- one fifth of 1%.

Meanwhile the (INAUDIBLE) also under a bit more pressure there, Sydney turning higher. But, we're going to keep on watching this. Many people talking about what the U.S. Federal Reserve could do about the situation. Many talking about what they want to hear from Ben Bernanke. Again, the story that we've been following the last few weeks and we will continue to do in our ongoing business coverage here on CNN. But, let's get back to more updates coming out of the Middle East. Jon?

MANN: Well, another story we're watching closely in the Middle East, carrots and sticks in Syria. Syria's President Bashar al-Assad promising political reform in an interview on state television on Sunday but the deadly crackdown continues nonetheless. Ivan Watson is following developments from Istanbul, Turkey.

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the first time the Syrian President addressed his citizens in more than two months. He stands accused, according to a recent United Nations Human Rights Report of "widespread systematic attacks against the civilian population which may amount to crimes against humanity." Instead, during this television appearance, he often sounded like a technocrat discussing the merits of constitutional reform.


BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA: We talked about a -- a package of reforms that we want to put which I addressed in my speech at the University in Damascus and also there will be another transitional period where we will talk about the change of constitution so it was important to listen to the point of view of different (INAUDIBLE) and from the point of view of the (INAUDIBLE) party and also the (INAUDIBLE) party is the party that has shaped the past and present and future and will do the future of Syria.


WATSON: Mr. Assad talked about the need for a national dialogue. He promised that elections could bring a new parliament into Damascus by February. Some Syrian opposition activists I've talked to say he has made promises like this before, even while sending the Syrian military to attack unarmed protestors in many cities and towns in Syria. One opposition activist called Mr. Assad delusional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I heard, Ivan, was a delusional man in absolute denial of reality on the ground. This speech did not acknowledge, as you said, anything about the massacres that have been committed over the past five months. What has been taking place in Syria is truly crimes against humanity.

WATSON: During his television interview, the Syrian President slammed western governments like the U.S., France, and Britain who have called on him to step down. He said this was imperialism and tried to deflect criticism of his own government's human rights abuses by drawing attention to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. But, he faces a crisis of credibility. Just days ago he promised the U.N. Secretary General that the military operations had come to an end in Syria. Instead, a prominent human rights organization in Syria claims that more than 20 Syrian citizens have been killed alone in the last 24 hours in the Province of Homs. Ivan Watson, CNN, Istanbul.

TANK: And, elsewhere in the region, rockets fell on southern Israel on Sunday as tension with Gaza continues to grow. Twenty incoming rockets have been reported by Israeli officials by noon on Sunday. Israel defense forces, (INAUDIBLE) men say that they've arrested dozens of men in Gaza. In the meantime, outrage is still simmering in Egypt. Cairo is promising to recall its Ambassador to Tel Aviv. Five Egyptian security personnel died on Thursday in the incident that set off the latest round of cross-border tension between Gaza and Israel. Well, of course we'll continue to bring you the latest from Libya but we're also following another story which may have large implications in the coming days. A hurricane is developing in the Atlantic Ocean. Our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri is following that for us. He also joins us right now from the International Weather Center. Pedram, what can you tell us about that?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Manisha, this certainly is going to be a large story, I think, in the coming couple of days across portions of the Caribbean and you take a look at the name storms. You count them all the way down and we've gone through eight, nine, there it is, Irene being the ninth letter, the letter I in the alphabet there in the storm track and the next one being Jose in line but none of them have turned out to be a hurricane.

Things are going to get a little interesting when it comes to Irene. Winds right now sitting at 111 kilometers per hour. That's about 70 or so miles per hour. The storm system just weak of becoming a hurricane right now but it's going to begin to push through portions of Puerto Rico in the next couple of hours. We know it's moved over areas of St. Kits and St. Martin, has brought in very heavy rainfall in the past 24 or so hours.

And you can take a look, the governments of these areas here have issued hurricane watches, hurricane warnings, you name it. When it comes to tropical weather, this one looks like it's going to be a serious one and the rainfall total very serious as well. This color red here, the dark reds indicating up to 25 cm, that's about 10 inches of rainfall across northern portions of San Jan areas of -- areas of Puerto Rico there and working their way towards northern reaches of the Dominican Republican. You're going to get very heavy rainfall in the next couple of days, very strong winds associated with this and eventually the Turks and Caicos Islands and then we're looking at the Bahamas that may be areas of concern but this storm system is going to move very quickly through this region and then the area of concern becomes portions of the southeastern coast of the United States.

If this makes it there healthy, we're talking about hurricane Irene at that point, say on Thursday night into Friday night, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, work your way towards Palm Beach, Jupiter, areas of southeastern coast of Florida there, going to be watching this very carefully as a very strong storm system so we'll be following that story as well. But, quickly, I want to share with you some record temperatures, very hot temperatures across portions of Europe in the past 24 hours. Lyon, France, one of the most beautiful places on earth there, as historic as a city comes, temperatures 36 Celsius, 97 Fahrenheit. Milan, same score today, and even Paris getting up to near record temperatures of 32, Manisha, but some cooling across western Europe the next couple of days and we will be following these stories as the night progresses here. Manisha?

TANK: All right, we'll be checking in with you Pedram. Thank you very much for all of that. There's going to be more on the breaking news out of Libya when World Report returns. Stay right there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TANK: A dramatic and fast developing situation is unfolding in Libya so let's bring you up to date with the very latest. There have been some celebrations in the capitol of Tripoli over what could soon be the fall of the long-time Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi. Dozens of cars with rebel flags sped into Tripoli earlier today. Anti-Gadhafi forces say they're now in control of most parts of Tripoli.

But, the rebels cautioned, there are still some pockets of resistance in the city. Colonel Gadhafi's whereabouts, though, are unknown but NATO says the Gadhafi regime is clearly crumbling. It appears two of Colonel Gadhafi's sons are under arrest. Opposition leaders and other sources say rebel forces have captured the sons, Saad Gadhafi and his brother, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi.

Prosecutors for the International Criminal Court say they hope to put Saif Gadhafi on trial. Well, Moammar Gadhafi has led Libya for more than 40 years and to many people around the world he has remained an enigma. Our very own Jonathan Mann met the Libyan leader up close and personal in his desert tent a few years ago. Here are his impressions.

MANN: He's the strangest head of state I've ever met. Moammar Gadhafi received me several years ago for an interview in his tent in Tripoli, a then peaceful port city where just about every billboard and sign was painted with his picture. Ronald Reagan once called Gadhafi a mad dog and his behavior does tend to be particular. He's famous for his flamboyant dress, his legion of female bodyguards, and his bizarre fixations such as a plan to abolish Switzerland.

In person, he seemed lethargic. His eyes, even behind sunglasses, seemed unfocused. His answers through a translator seemed rambling. We never saw the female bodyguards and his clothing was relatively low key, a camouflage shirt festooned with maps of Africa. But that fly whisk never stopped flying.

Libya, today, is in turmoil. It's people are demanding democracy but when I brought it up he threatened to sue me for slander.

If you or somebody else says Libya is not a democracy, he told us, then it would be considered an insult and maybe we could go to court to redeem honor from that insult.

Back then, Libya was a rogue state trying to redeem itself. It had surrendered its most dangerous weapons to the west. It was trying to open its economy to the world. It's leader was the wildcard, the unpredictable element though. He still is.

TANK: Well, Jonathan, obviously, I want to ask you what it was like to meet him.

MANN: Weird, weird, and weird. You know, the whole thing about him would be funny if he -- if he hadn't, over the decades, been so cruel to so many people and marked so many lives so indelibly and now he is as mysterious as ever. We, quite literally, don't know where he is or what his plans are and so the enigma -- the enigma endures. TANK: But, just, yes, it certainly does and I think many of us are listening into the rumors as to where he might be now. Well, that's it and for now at least, you're watching CNN the world news leader. I'm Manisha Tank in Hong Kong.

MANN: And I'm Jonathan Mann at CNN Center. Our coverage of the situation in Libya continues in 90 seconds.