Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Larry King Live

Interview with Moammar Gadhafi

Aired September 28, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi -- he sparked outrage when his country gave the convicted PanAm 103 bomber a hero's welcome home from prison. And he caused consternation with a 90 minute plus speech to the U.N. After 40 years in power, he's still pretty unpredictable.

Moammar Gadhafi for the hour, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Libya's Moammar Gadhafi claimed power in a bloodless military coup in September of 1969. Colorful and controversial, Gadhafi has been an advocate of Arab nationalism and a supporter of various self- proclaimed liberation movements.

By the mid-1980s, Gadhafi was treated as a pariah by many in the West, accused of bankrolling terrorist activities around the globe. U.S./Libyan tensions reached a boiling point during the Reagan administration, with the American president denouncing Libya as a rogue state.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Gadhafi must know that we will hold him fully accountable for any such actions.


KING: In April of 1986, after accusing Libya of direct involvement in the bombing of a West Berlin nightclub in which two U.S. servicemen were killed, President Reagan ordered airstrikes against Tripoli.


REAGAN: When our citizens are abused or attacked anywhere in the world, on the direct orders of a hostile regime, we will respond, so as long as I am in this Oval Office.


KING: Then, in December 1988, PanAm Flight 103 was destroyed by a bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland. Two hundred seventy people were killed, 190 of them Americans. After much investigation, two Libyan men were indicted for the bombing in 1991. For years, Gadhafi refused to extradite these suspects, prompting international economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation. In 1999, following long and complicated negotiations, Gadhafi agreed to hand over the two accused Libyans to the Netherlands to stand trial under Scottish law. After a lengthy trial, one defendant was acquitted. The other, Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

In the following years, Libya offered monetary compensation to the families of the Lockerbie bombing victims and formally accepted responsibility for the destruction of PanAm 103. In 2006, Washington restored full diplomatic ties with Tripoli. And secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Libya in 2008.

This year, convicted Lockerbie bomber Baset Ali al-Megrahi, suffering from prostate cancer, was released from prison in Scotland on compassionate grounds. The United States called it a mistake. The hero's welcome al-Megrahi received triggered anger and outrage in the West.

Earlier this month, Libya celebrated Gadhafi's four decades in power. He is now the third longest serving of all current heads of state.

Good evening.

I'm Larry King and we're at the Libyan mission, right next to the U.N. building in New York, where last week all of the nations of the world combined for the opening of the U.N.

Our special guest tonight is leader Brother Leader Moammar Gadhafi, the leader of the nation of Libya.

What -- you used to be called Colonel.

What changed from Colonel to brother leader?

PRES. MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYA (through translator): Colonel is the military rank. I am actually a leader of the revolution. It is not like what you said, like I'm the leader of Libya. I'm the leader of the revolution (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Is this your first visit to this country?

GADHAFI: Yes, it is.

KING: What are -- what are your first impressions?

GADHAFI: Nothing, because we are circled with security and we -- we saw nothing.

KING: You didn't get to see much?

GADHAFI: No, no. We didn't see nothing.

KING: What did you think of the U.N.?

GADHAFI: I made a speech yesterday regarding the U.N. I believe that the whole world has listened to the speech or heard the speech.

KING: And there was quite a reaction to that speech, as you probably heard today, and much criticism in the United States about the speech.

Do you have any regrets?

GADHAFI: I said what I'm convinced and I didn't really bother that much about the reactions. And what I said will be put verbatim in the General Assembly.

KING: Were you interpreted fairly?

GADHAFI: I doubt if it's been fully interpreted -- if it is a perfect interpretation, because I was speaking Farsi and sometimes I'm using the Libyan dialect. And sometimes I speak with anger, banging the table, tearing and throwing away the U.N. charter.

KING: All right.

GADHAFI: I threw papers at the president of the Assembly and the U.N. secretary general.

KING: The British prime minister, Gordon Brown, took great exception to that.

Why -- why did you tear up the U.N. charter?

GADHAFI: Because it's not respected. It's -- it's worthless. They made it null, so it deserves to be thrown out and it deserves to be put in the dust bin.

KING: But you are a member nation and you came to address the body.

Why -- why treat it with disrespect?

GADHAFI: I'm here to prove this fact -- I stand -- I support the United Nations. But the behaviors or the practices that took place ever since 1945 (INAUDIBLE) all of it is disrespect to the U.N. charter.

KING: But still, you addressed them and still you came, right?

And you -- you say you respect the U.N.

How can you respect it and tear up the charter?

GADHAFI: I respect the U.N., but they did not respect the charter. The General Assembly is there and I believe it is the United Nations. But the charter has become nothing -- insignificant.

KING: How do you think you were received?


KING: At the U.N.?

GADHAFI: As you saw yesterday on the air. Good. You know, a good reception.

KING: You thought you had a good reception?


KING: Let's talk about something very, very, very important. You did not mention it in the speech, but the crash of PanAm 103 over Lockerbie. The only person convicted was Mr. Al-Megrahi. He was released from a Scottish prison last month after serving eight-and-a- half years. He has prostate cancer. And you greeted his return with great honor and respect, yet he was responsible for the killing of hundreds of innocent people.

Why such respect?

GADHAFI: He was not met by the honor guard. He was not received officially. But his friends, his family, his tribe could not be prevented. We could not prevent them from receiving him. These are the people who received him.

Plus, the fact that he is terminally ill or seriously ill, I don't think it is suitable or reasonable that -- that I don't also believe it is ethical or moral to talk about him in such a way or to -- to talk about him.

KING: Well, let me ask you in a minute.

We'll be right back.

Don't go away.

Next, more reaction from Moammar Gadhafi on Libya's warm welcome home for a convicted terrorist.


KING (on camera): I'm asking you, were you saluting a criminal?



KING: I'm going to stay on this because so many lives were lost and you had made such good inroads in the last few years -- accepted by the United States, people in the world had changed opinions of you. The image was -- was different than it had ever been. And then suddenly, this man, who was responsible for so many deaths, is accepted warmly and now opinions change. You knew that had to happen.

Why did you let it happen?

GADHAFI: What is it that happened?

KING: A convicted killer returned home to the greetings of a hero -- was greeted like a hero.

GADHAFI: How do you see the -- how do you see the hero's welcome?

I mean how is it?

KING: I saw it everywhere on television. Everyone saw it. He was greeted at the airport with cheers.

GADHAFI: Do you have something practical about the way he was received, about the receptions or are you saying something -- repeating the propaganda, repeating...

KING: No, I'm ask -- I'm not repeating anything.

I'm asking you, were you saluting a criminal?

GADHAFI: Saluting in what way?

Saluting a criminal in what way?

KING: The way he was greeted -- now, you know what I mean. The way he was greeted. He was greeted so warmly, a massive reception at the airport.

GADHAFI: As I said, you may ask the people who received him. But we cannot prevent his own people, his own friends, his own family, his own tribe to receive him.

KING: Did you support the way he was treated?

GADHAFI: I can't say anything. I don't even have the right to talk about his own tribe, his own people, his own friends receiving him or -- I can't talk about it.

KING: All right. One other thing.

What do you say to the people -- the relatives of the victims on that plane?

What would you say to them, as the leader of your country?

GADHAFI: I would -- I would say to them, they may go and ask his own people, his own friends or families or tribes to ask him why he was received by them.

KING: I'm asking you, what do you say to the victims -- the relatives of the victims of the -- of the plane crash?

GADHAFI: You see, this -- this issue, this -- these questions has been -- has been buried and -- this case or these questions, if it is -- I would say if it is buried, then if we drag it up and dig it up, it -- it is not good. It is not beneficial. It's as if somebody is dead and then.

The families of the victims and the two countries and maybe -- maybe more than two countries, put an end to this case, put an end to these questions, legally, financially. And it would not be beneficial. And to talk about it is sensationalism.

KING: All right. Will forget it. I will leave it. But you realize that opinion of the world changed about you because of it.

You realize that?

GADHAFI: OK. Let me say this. The Bulgarian medical team, when they killed 1,200 kids -- 1,2000 children, they were sentenced to death. They appealed. The appeal was refused and the sentence of death was confirmed.

(INAUDIBLE) fair trial and observers from Bulgaria and from the world, attended this fair trial. After intervention from the European Union, from the president of France and his wife, the sentence was commuted from the death sentence. And, again, it was (INAUDIBLE) that they would be handed over to Bulgaria to serve the rest of their sentence.

When they were flying just before they landed at (INAUDIBLE) airport, a full pardon was given for the crime they committed. And the president of Bulgaria, who is a member in the European Union, received them at the airport.

After that, they were received at the European Parliament in France. They were -- they were given standing ovation. And at the same time, 400 Libyan families were watching that. And the whole Libyan people was watching what was taking place. And this -- this medical team is a group of children killers. There was no protest.

Why wasn't there any protest against them?

Is it because that we are not human beings and they are human beings or we don't have feelings and sentiments and others of the families of the other victims have?

KING: OK. I've got to get a break.

We'll be right back.


KING (voice-over): Next, the Lockerbie bombing victims and his son's very controversial accusation.

(on camera): Your son, Saef, accused the families of the Lockerbie victims of being greedy by asking for more money.

Do you agree with that?



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a total disaster. That's all you -- that's all you -- that's the only words you can -- you can say. It's just a total disaster.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does it even look like a plane?

What does it look like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you tell me where the plane is. There's nothing left, nothing at all -- just pieces.


KING: We're back with Moammar Gadhafi at the Libyan mission in New York.

I'm Larry King.

One other thing on this and then we'll go to other things. In an interview with the BBC last year, your son Saef accused the families of the Lockerbie victims of being greedy by asking for more money.

Do you agree with that?

GADHAFI: I don't have information about the amount of compensation and who asked for compensation and who didn't. Yesterday, I received some families of the victims and we had a friendly meeting together.

KING: You did?


KING: All right. We'll leave that alone. We'll go into other things.

We'll be right back.


KING (voice-over): Next, Moammar Gadhafi on Barack Obama.

(on camera): Would you say he should be president forever?




GADHAFI: The American people, the black African Kenyan, young, voted for him and made him a president. This is a great thing and we are proud of that. You are the beginning of a change. He did go for a change. But as far as I'm concerned, I've -- Obama is a glimpse in the dark for the four years or the next eight years. And I'm afraid that we may go back to square one.


KING: What are your thoughts about our president, Barack Obama?

GADHAFI: I would support and my views are identical to the American views, I mean, because they have the trust of the American people -- he had the trust of the American people and he had the votes of the American people. In elections that is -- overwhelming -- in an election that -- overwhelmingly won the elections, unprecedented.

And we pray for -- for him that he would be able to achieve the visions that he has in his mind and made it public. And we are comfortable.

KING: Did you say he should be president forever?

GADHAFI: I hope so. I wish that.

KING: Why?

GADHAFI: Because the vision he has will save America and will save the world -- his vision.

KING: Now, his predecessor, George W. Bush, restored diplomatic ties with your country, removed Libya from the list of countries as state sponsors of terrorism. He did that.

What did you think of President Bush?

GADHAFI: As a matter of fact, relations between the two respective countries, Libya and America, entered a stage -- a new stage after the Reagan era -- the Reagan period. George Bush the senior, the father, when he addressed the matter with Libya or dealt with Libya, he resorted to (INAUDIBLE) the United Nations he never resorted to the means of threats...


GADHAFI: And during -- during only his tenure, never mentioned the word Lockerbie -- never referred to it. When Clinton became a president, relations improved more or better. He was a good man. He was not aggressive. Then George Bush took over. During his tenure, the Lockerbie issue was solved and relations between the two respected countries were normalized.

I would say that America, dealing with the Lockerbie issue, was in a legal way, a peaceful way. Irrespective of the results, but the method or the methodology was legal and peaceful.

KING: Would you say relations are good now?

GADHAFI: Of course. Very good. KING: We'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: When you declared Libya's decision to abandon programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, you said that your nation expected a real benefit from that action. Did you get that benefit? Did you benefit by abandoning weaponry?

GADHAFI: Regrettably, Libya did not benefit from this historic action that it took in the service of world peace. Libya was not rewarded for this historic action that was done. I would say Libya benefited, but was not rewarded.

KING: Didn't you get many more investments in your country? More money came in to Libya.

GADHAFI: From which part?

KING: From all parts, from the United States. Money came into Libya. Didn't things change because of your action?

GADHAFI: That's what I meant. Libya benefited, but Libya was not properly rewarded as it should be.

KING: What would have been a proper reward?

GADHAFI: They should support Libya, back up Libya in the transferring of the use of the nuclear weapons that was directed for military use, to be used for peaceful uses.

KING: OK. The UN in Iran and North Korea are both under pressure to drop nuclear programs. Do you think they should?

GADHAFI: If the program aims at achieving nuclear bombs and nuclear weapons, we are against that, and this program should be discarded. But if it is for the peaceful use, then this program should be supported and encouraged.

KING: Do you think they're using them for peaceful usage?

GADHAFI: This should be verified by the world supervision, world inspection. Iran, up to now, says that its program is not a military one. It is a peaceful one.

KING: We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with leader Moammar Gadhafi at the Libyan Mission in New York. This is LARRY KING LIVE. The UN Security Council -- and you denounced them when you spoke as a terror council -- unanimously adopted a resolution that seeks to rid the world of nuclear arms. Despite your differences with the council, do you support that resolution?

GADHAFI: Strongly, with all strength. But not Iran only. All countries.

KING: You want to see all nuclear weapons gone? What do you think of Ahmadinejad?

GADHAFI: What is the question about?

KING: Do you like him? Do you know him? What do you think of him?

GADHAFI: I don't know him. It was a fleeing encounter in the international -- foreign international conference, a simple meeting.

But any head of a state or any leaders of the people, they should be viewed from the perspective of their own people, whether their own people like them or don't like them. They are supporting them, not supporting them. They are with them or against them. This is how they should be viewed, how they should be --

KING: The world can have an opinion, though. Anyway --

GADHAFI: We cannot be in a position better to assess or value the leader or the president more than his own people can do so.

KING: What do you think should happen in Iraq? Should the United States leave Iraq?

GADHAFI: The question is like this, why did the United States of America occupy Iraq? The answer to these questions will carry the answers to the following questions, other questions.

KING: All right. I understand. What about Afghanistan?

GADHAFI: It is in the same boat, same thing applies to Afghanistan. Yesterday, in my speech, I did mention Afghanistan. I did mention Iraq. Why the invasion of Afghanistan?

KING: It housed the Taliban. The Taliban presented a threat to the United States.


KING: And al Qaeda, too.

GADHAFI: Taliban per se, does not pose any threat. Taliban equals -- similar to Afghanistan. They don't have planes. They don't have electronics. They don't have rockets, science, weapons.

KING: How about al Qaeda?

GADHAFI: Where is al Qaeda? Al Qaeda's in Europe. Al Qaeda is here in New York.


KING: Next, you don't want to miss what the leader of Libya has to say about bin Laden and 9/11. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You said the United States has made Osama bin Laden a prophet and a saint in the Islamic world. Is he still held that way, do you think?



KING: In an interview with ABC six years ago, you said the United States has made Osama bin Laden a prophet and a saint in the Islamic world. Is he still held that way, do you think?

GADHAFI: We should not have given him this value or this status. Who is he, bin Laden?

KING: He committed a heinous act.

GADHAFI: Bin Laden made this heinous act.

KING: You don't think what Osama bin Laden did was wrong?

GADHAFI: Was he on board one of the aircraft that hit the tower?

KING: No, but he took credit for sending them.

GADHAFI: This is another thing. I don't think that in front of us we have a court sentence vis-a-vis bin Laden or this or that. The terrorists who hit New York are not from Afghan. They're not Afghani. They did not use the airplanes or take off from Iraq or Afghanistan, the airplanes.

They flew from JFK Airport, here in New York. The whole action was done here. They were trained here. They did not train or were not trained in Iraq or in Afghan.

KING: OK. We'll be right back.


KING: We're back. Is it true that you propose that Israel and Palestine combine into one state called Israetine (ph)?

GADHAFI: That is the historic solution, a peaceful one, a peaceful solution. All other efforts will fail. This solution will succeed only. Not adopting this solution will lead to great losses on both parties.

KING: Do you think that solution is possible?

GADHAFI: Why not?

KING: Because the hostility goes back so long and the wounds are so deep. GADHAFI: One million Palestinians live in Israel. They are members of the Knesset. They are together. Half a million Israelis are in the Western Bank, side by side, shoulder by shoulder with the Palestinians. Workers go from West Bank to Tel Aviv to Jaffa and they work in factories over there.

KING: But do you think that either side would ever agree to that?

GADHAFI: Not the old guard. Not the mentality of the Second World War. The new generation will accept it. The new generation will agree. The new generation will see it.

The new generation will accept those Palestinians and will expect their own land to go back. Because the Israelis will have the right to live in the West Bank or Gaza, or to live in one of the Arab countries. We will expect Palestinians to return.

KING: You think you'll ever see it?

GADHAFI: I will exert efforts. I will make efforts for this solution to be achieved.

KING: You'll be involved?

GADHAFI: I'm confident with that. I wrote the White Book specifically for that.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments after this.


KING: You came to power in Libya in 1969. Long time ago. Do you have thoughts on who might succeed you?

GADHAFI: I gave up power or authority since 1977. Once this was established, the people's authority was also established. And ever since that date, I am not in power anymore.

KING: So you're not the leader of your country?

GADHAFI: I'm the leader of the revolution, not the leader of the country.

KING: There is still a revolution going on?


KING: What is your proudest achievement?

KING: Establishment or the measures of the people's authority, and laying down the cornerstone for the new era. It's the era of the masses.

KING: What was your biggest mistake? No one's perfect.

KING: For sure. For sure. Mistakes.

KING: Do you have a mistake that you wish you could do over?

GADHAFI: I admit -- I confess to a number of mistakes happened. One of the mistakes that I may mention, that ever since the inception of the revolution, we were very much enthusiastic and eager to have a nuclear weapon, to manufacture a nuclear bomb. After we have grown up and have seen how the world has changed, we have seen that it's not beneficial.

KING: You would like to sit down with our president?

GADHAFI: It is not urgent. But if we have a meeting, it will be positive.

KING: Thank you. Thank you, Brother Leader Moammar Gadhafi of Libya.

"Anderson Cooper 360" is next.