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Libyan Envoy Aujali: Gadhafi Has ‘No Place to Go’

March 22, 2011 at 5:51 PM EDT
Jeffrey Brown talks to Ali Suleiman Aujali, who was once Moammar Gadhafi's envoy to Washington, but denounced the leader when violence broke out and maintains ties to rebel leaders in Benghazi.
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JEFFREY BROWN: And we’re joined now by Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali. He was once Gadhafi’s envoy to Washington, but denounced the Libyan leader after violence first broke out. He now maintains close communication with the opposition based in Benghazi.

And welcome to you. Welcome again.

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

JEFFREY BROWN: There is some — I want to ask you first about some late-breaking news. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apparently in an interview with ABC said that Gadhafi — that she’s hearing that Gadhafi may be exploring some exile options, although this is unconfirmed. Do you know much — do you know anything about this?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Well, I hope so. But people, they know Gadhafi very well. This may be the last option.

I never expect Gadhafi, that he will leave the country alive.

JEFFREY BROWN: You don’t expect that?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: I don’t expect that. I think Gadhafi has no place to go. And I don’t think that he will be — permit himself to be handled by the International Criminal Court of Justice.

That is a very humiliation for him. I think he will — maybe have to face his destiny. And if he agreed to leave Libya, I think this is the best thing he did in his own life, in his — for his life, you know, and for the life of the people.

JEFFREY BROWN: Let me ask you here. It does — in these reports we’re seeing, it does appear that his forces still have — they continue to be on offensive, at least in some areas.

What are the sources that you talk to in Libya, what are they telling you about how effective the bombing campaign has been so far?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Oh, the bombing is very effective.

Saturday, if the coalition didn’t hit the convoy of the tankers heading to Benghazi, I can assure to you between 100,000, 150,000 lives would be lost. And that’s — you can see the change of power now. You see the situation has completely changed.

Now the revolutionaries, they are marching toward the west. Now they are close to Ajdabiya. And the targets which now have to be hit were surrounding Misrata and Zintan. These cities, they are under the siege of Gadhafi. Now some of his forces, they are inside the cities. The snipers are there. And the people are suffering for the last three weeks. Something has to be done to break the siege, again, around these cities.

JEFFREY BROWN: But is there a command structure in place? Is there an organization in place among the opposition forces that can capitalize on whatever openings come from this — from the bombing?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Well, of course. There is — that will be no problem, as far as we break the siege. Then the people will come out. And they will share — they will come together to stop the — Gadhafi’s forces from surrounding the cities. And they will open the old exit of the city, and they can move ahead.

JEFFREY BROWN: But even to break the siege requires some command structure, some coordination of forces that are sometimes referred to as ragtag.

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: I think these two cities, they need the help from outside, the people that are resisting the Gadhafi forces, not to let them inside the city. If it get inside the cities, these forces, they will mercy nobody they catch or they capture.

JEFFREY BROWN: What kind of help from outside?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: I think we need — the coalition, they need to hit the forces of Gadhafi outside of this city. They have to discriminate, of course, between the ally, the friend and the enemy. Unfortunately, the regime forces, now they’re taking human shield from the neighboring villages to bring them to enter Misrata.

JEFFREY BROWN: The U.S., of course, throughout has said there will be no boots on the ground in the terminology. Have you asked for that? Do you foresee some circumstance where even smaller special forces or some kind of foreign forces could be called upon or needed?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Well, I think — you know, I believe this is where — was very clear from the beginning, that I think, if we have foreign forces on Libyan soil, that will be a problem, not only for Libya, but will be a problem for the coalition.

There are so many people, they have a different idea of the intervention of the international forces, even we ask for it. I think maybe for the special operation, that some things can be done quickly and they leave the soil. That maybe can be negotiable. And I think this is…

JEFFREY BROWN: Smaller special operation forces?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Yes. Yes, I think this may be required. And I think this would have to be decided by the council, the internal council of Libya. But I think, as far as there is no regular troops taking part in the fighting, that is my concern.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, one — as you know, in this country, one of the continuing questions here has been, who exactly are we helping? Who makes up the opposition?

I saw a quote from former U.S. diplomat Nicholas Burns, who put it quite bluntly. He says, “We have to recognize this situation for what it really is, the first time in American history when we have used our military power to prop up and possibly put in power a group of people we literally do not know.”

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Well, I tell my friend Nick Burns, you are helping ordinary Libyan people. You are helping the people who raise against the regime. They are doctors. They are professors. They are students. They are workers. They are all the kind of the Libyan population that are there.

You’re not helping al-Qaida. You’re not helping extremists. You are helping the people, the real Libyan people who are waiting for this moment for more than 40 years ago. And this is the time to help them. These questions have to be asked later, because you will never have a worse regime than what we have now.

JEFFREY BROWN: But in helping them, are we also helping Islamic fundamental — more extremist groups that you refer to who also want to get rid of Gadhafi?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Where is the extremist group with Libya? If Gadhafi is talking about al-Qaida, al-Qaida in Libya, then who brought them? Gadhafi brought them to uprise against him?

This is an easy accusation Gadhafi’s government is making just to frighten the West, just to make them suspicious of what they are helping. You are helping ordinary people, ordinary Libyan people who have been suffering under this regime.

Now they have — they can see a light at the end of the tunnel. They have to make their life. And, believe me, that — Libyans are very capable to have a democratic country, to have a real relation with the neighboring country, with the West, with Africa, with the Arabs.

If this regime stayed behind, West, America and the coalition, they will suffer more than the Libyans, believe me.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, you have put it — the other way of asking it is if the opposition wins, is it clear what is at the end of this, what kind of Libyan government there would be?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: You will have a democratic government.

JEFFREY BROWN: Democratic government?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: That’s what the Libyans are waiting — that’s what the Libyans are asking for the help of the international community, to get — of this regime who hurts everybody, the close and the far, and they hate West and East.

And he’s been cheating his people. What the forces loyal to Gadhafi are fighting for? Can you tell me? I will tell you the answer very quickly. They’re fighting for one family to stay in power more than 42 years. Then who will support this regime? Who will have sympathy to this regime?

You are helping people who are trying to get for the first time in their history since Gadhafi in power to see the sun again. Libya is a big country with a small population. These people, they have been suffering for a long time. And I have seen, unfortunately, and here so many debaters talking about this is anti — against the Constitution of the United States. This is costly.

We told the international community, don’t speak about cost, but we are a rich country. We will take care of that. And this debate about constitution, not constitution, is not the time for it. Now the mission has to be completed. Gadhafi must be out. That’s now our goal. The coalition goal should be this one. We will leave the debate later on if this is constitutional or not constitutional.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

Ambassador Aujali, thank you very much.

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Thank you very much.