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Libya’s Ambassador Urges Obama to Issue No-Fly Zone, Be Firm With Regime

March 3, 2011 at 6:17 PM EDT
Jeffrey Brown talks with Ali Suleiman Aujali, the Libyan ambassador to the United States appointed by Moammar Gadhafi in 2009. Aujali denounced the Libyan leader and says he now represents the voice of the people.
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JEFFREY BROWN: And now to the man who was appointed Libya’s ambassador to the United States in 2009 by Moammar Gadhafi.

Last week, Ali Suleiman Aujali denounced the Libyan leader and called for him to step down. He joins me now.

And welcome to you.

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI, Libyan ambassador to the United States: Thank you.

JEFFREY BROWN: Because there is some confusion, still, I want to ask you first, do you consider yourself Libya’s ambassador to the U.S. still?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Of course. I am.

JEFFREY BROWN: Nothing has changed there?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Nothing has changed. And I am the voice of the people in my state now. I quit this regime. I have had no relation with it since my — since 21st of February. And I am the voice of the people who are suffering since 17th of February.

JEFFREY BROWN: We heard President Obama today call again for Gadhafi to leave. He spoke again about preparing a full range of options. He didn’t go further yet — he didn’t rule out, but he didn’t go further yet to a no-fly zone.

What was your reaction to his…

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Well, I must say, thank you very much to President Obama, because I made appeal through the CNN two days that we trust him. We want him to be firm with this regime. We want him to help our people. And we want him to work with the Europeans and other countries to establish the no-fly zone.

JEFFREY BROWN: You would like a no-fly zone?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Of course. This is very important.

The Libyan are slaughtering every day. Now, when we keep low profile against this regime, when he take the chance and he start using his airplanes to attack people and attack different places. Yesterday and today, they attacked Al Brega.

This is where the oil refinery, and this is where all the pipelines from the desert to the coast comes from. And if he hit one of these pipelines, that will be disaster, not only for the Libyan people, but it will be disaster for the environment also.

JEFFREY BROWN: But you have heard concerns raised about the effectiveness of establishing a no-fly zone, about the possibility, of course, drawing in military — the military into this situation?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Well, a fly zone, it is a very important issue.

And — but I have to be clear about this. We do not want any physical presence in our lands. But our air are free for the international community to act. And, if they act, they have to act strong, no chance for the regime to come back again and slaughter the Libyans.

JEFFREY BROWN: Is there now a leader of the rebellion? Who is in charge? And are there coherent goals that you can point to, beyond getting rid of Gadhafi?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Yes. Let me tell — I’m not really, Jeff, in favor of using rebellions.

JEFFREY BROWN: OK.

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Rebellions different — gives different impression.

I prefer to use protester. We are not — we are not in favor or we are not fighting to separate our countries. We are one country. We are one people, and we have to keep our unity. Now they established the council, national council for — like a caretaker, and this council now will — it has about 30 members all over the country.

JEFFREY BROWN: And it’s led by the former interior — justice minister, right?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Yes. That’s led by former justice…

And he’s a great man. He’s a great man.

JEFFREY BROWN: OK. How much backing does it have? It includes people like him who have been tied to the government in the past.

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: No, he’s not — this man, he has never been tied to the government. I know him personally. This man, he is the man with the principles.

But Saif, he advised his father to bring in, because Saif, he claimed he wants to reform. But, unfortunately, this is — he cannot understand what is going on in Libya. And he is the only minister in the history of Libya since Gadhafi took over to resign on air in the People’s Congress. Then, this man, he came hoping that changes will take place in Libya. But when he finds out that there is no way, then he just quits.

JEFFREY BROWN: So is there a unified opposition at this point, and with clear agendas?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: You mean the minister?

JEFFREY BROWN: The minister, but everyone else around the country.

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: I think everybody in Libya, officials or ex-officials, they don’t trust this regime.

And now I have to make it clear, please don’t listen to the regime propaganda that eastern part under al-Qaida, under Islamic extremists. Libya’s history never, never showed that Libya was an extremist country, never. But he has said this to frighten the Europeans, the Americans. And then they will think twice before they give their support to the people.

And using not only that — he is using the immigrant. He bring them from Africa against the European. He blackmailed the European by the African he brought them illegally to Libya.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right. But help us understand the regime and how it has stayed in place. And you know Gadhafi. You served in the foreign service under him for over 40 years.

People would ask, why? You must have known of the brutality, of the corruption, of the fear.

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Yes, well, my relationship with Gadhafi, I saw him a few times. I don’t really have a personal relation with him. That’s never happened, you know?

But we — we try, like any — we hope that from — through our position, we can serve the people. Through our position, we can express our intention, through our position, that we can introduce some reforms. We have never been involved in any dirty job. We always consider that change must happen. And everybody in his position and his belief that this regime is bad, then at least they can give a chance to serve his own people.

JEFFREY BROWN: So, there are people in the foreign service, people in elites’ part of the society who talked about this over the years, about what could be done?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: We try very hard. We try very hard.

And we said, OK, we consider that happening some time, but it’s happening in different countries, but not at that level. When it came, for example, in 17th of February that the people were killed by mercenaries using weapons, anti-tanks and anti-aircraft against a human being — they never use the hot water. They never use the bomb gas. They straight away started shooting people by these mercenaries. And they are snipers.

JEFFREY BROWN: Mercenaries.

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: The mercenaries, yes. And they are snipers. Then I can’t understand it.

JEFFREY BROWN: I’m sorry. Go ahead.

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: And even before I decided to quit, I was — start buying even some furniture, because I said, well, this is time for me. I should retire and I should — because it is a hopeless case.

JEFFREY BROWN: Do you think there is any way to reach Gadhafi at this point to persuade him to step down before there is much more bloodshed?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: I think it is very difficult for Gadhafi to step down. Gadhafi has to be enforced to leave.

And I don’t believe any negotiation with Gadhafi, no compromise with Gadhafi. We have reached the point we cannot go back. This regime must go, must go, because anything, anything give this regime a chance to survive, that is not on the side of the Libyan people at all.

JEFFREY BROWN: I have seen you quoted as saying that: We realize that he is crazy.

Do you think that he believes what he says, that he has the support of the Libyan people, even as we watch the midst of this — all these protests?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Can you imagine these people now? He’s telling the international media that: The people, they love me. The people, they support me. The people, they die for me.

Can you believe a stable man or a stable politician or a stable president tell these lies to the media? He’s something — something wrong — 100 percent, there is something wrong with him, not only today, but 30 or 40 years ago.

This man is — he’s ruling Libya with fire and steel, nothing more than that, no chance for you to express your view, no chance for you to just put your idea. He believes he is God on the Earth, and you cannot tell him, this is right or wrong, never.

JEFFREY BROWN: OK.

Ambassador Aujali, thank you very much.

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Thank you very much, Jeff. Thanks.