Gaddafi defiant as Libyan rebels meet with world powers

Al Jazeera: Leaked documents show US officials advising Gaddafi to employ foreign intelligence - including Israel's - to stay in power.

By OREN KESSLER
September 1, 2011 21:47
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [file photo]

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi dishevled sad greasy 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen)

 
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Libya's new leaders gathered with foreign allies in Paris on Thursday to coordinate the war-battered country's reconstruction, while fugitive strongman Muammar Gaddafi delivered his latest defiant address to supporters, vowing to fight until the end despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Wednesday saw one of the more bizarre turns in the Libyan saga, as Al Jazeera reported it had obtained intelligence documents from Gaddafi's looted Tripoli compound showing current and former US officials had advised the dictator to transfer intelligence to Washington via regional intelligence services including that of Israel.

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One of the documents purported to summarize a meeting between senior Libyan officials and David Welch, an assistant secretary of state under George W. Bush and the man who brokered the restoration of US-Libyan ties in 2008.

The document says that in an August 2 meeting in Cairo, Welch advised Gaddafi's team on winning the propaganda war, suggesting methods of undermining Libya's rebels and deflecting international attention from the country's uprising. Welch now works for Bechtel, a multinational company based in the US with billion-dollar construction deals across the Middle East and North Africa.

"Any information related to al-Qaida or other terrorist extremist organizations should be found and given to the American administration but only via the intelligence agencies of either Israel, Egypt, Morocco, or Jordan," the document says. "America will listen to them … It's better to receive this information as if it originated from those countries."

The file quotes Welch as advising the Gaddafi regime to take advantage of the unrest in Syria, "particularly regarding the double-standard policy adopted by Washington … the Syrians were never your friends and you would lose nothing from exploiting the situation there in order to embarrass the West."

It says Welch proposed that Gaddafi "step aside," but "not necessarily relinquish all his powers" - a move he said would receive considerable support within the US administration. For months, official White House policy has been that Gaddafi must be removed from power.



Another document purports to be a summary of a conversation between Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam and US Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a vehement opponent of American intervention in Libya. Kucinich, it says, asked Gaddafi's son for information the representative could use to lobby lawmakers to put a stop to NATO airstrikes and suspend support for Libya's National Transitional Council.

The documents state that like Welch, Kucinich sought to obtain information linking the NTC to al-Qaida, as well as information that could help defend the younger Gaddafi from a summons against him at the International Criminal Court.

Welch declined Al Jazeera's request for comment. Kucinich issued a response Wednesday saying, "Al Jazeera found a document written by a Libyan bureaucrat to other Libyan bureaucrats ... Any implication I was doing anything other than trying to bring an end to an unauthorized war is fiction."  

As Western allies gathered in Paris, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Libya's interim leaders to seek reconciliation not retribution after their victory over Gaddafi and pledged support for the transition to democracy.

"The work does not end with the end of an oppressive regime," Clinton said. "Winning a war offers no guarantee of winning the peace that follows. What happens in the coming days will be critical."

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said, "We have to help the National Transitional Council because the country is devastated, the humanitarian situation is difficult and there's a lack of water, electricity and fuel."

His British counterpart William Hague said he sought a closer trade relationship between Libya and Europe and said Britain would not miss out on its share of contracts.

Russia made a welcome about-face in its own Libya policy, recognizing the rebels before the conference even opened. Moscow had abstained from a UN Security Council vote in March that allowed Western military intervention in the country, but then repeatedly accused NATO forces of overstepping its mandate to protect civilians and of siding with rebels in the civil war.

China's official response was cooler, with the People's Daily newspaper telling the West to let the United Nations lead reconstruction in Libya and that Beijing would defend its economic stake there.

The so-called Friends of Libya conference gives the NTC its first platform to address the world. Its chairman, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, will outline plans for a new constitution, elections within 18 months and ways to avoid any descent into postwar Iraq-style bloodletting.

On Thursday the deposed Libyan leader issued a trademark rant exhorting supporters to fight on.

"Let it be a long battle. We will fight from place to place, from town to town, from valley to valley, from mountain to mountain," Gaddafi said in a message broadcast on Arab satellite television channels.

"If Libya goes up in flames, who will be able to govern it? Let it burn. They don't want to rule Libya. They cannot rule it as long as we are armed. We are still armed ... How can we give ourselves up again? Are we women surrendering ourselves to our husbands?"

Gaddafi was speaking on the anniversary of the military coup that toppled King Idris and brought him to power in 1969 when he was a 27-year-old army captain.

A senior NTC commander said Gaddafi was in a desert town outside Tripoli, along with his son Saif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, planning a fightback. All three fugitives are wanted by the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity.

On the ground, rebels continued their advance on Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown and last bastion of support.

"The real question is what combat capability they have there, versus that of the rebels," Micah Zenko, fellow for conflict prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Jerusalem Post. "NATO has said that as long as regime forces exist, they could potentially harm civilians. So NATO will likely provide air support for the rebels as they try to take Sirte."

The NTC extended by a week a Saturday deadline for the surrender of the coastal city of Sirte, Gaddafi's birthplace. The extension follows a peace feeler from one of Gaddafi's sons, Saadi, on Wednesday. "We were talking about negotiations based on ending bloodshed," Saadi told al-Arabiya TV, adding that his father had authorized him to parley with the opposition council.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East

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