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Last updated: February 23, 2011 7:52 pm
Muammer Gaddafi expects to be the “big father” advisor to any new regime in Libya and the country’s current bloody turmoil amounts to a “positive earthquake” that is paving the way for much-needed reform.
That is the assessment of Saadi Gaddafi, one of the Libyan autocrat’s seven sons, who in a telephone interview with the Financial Times that appeared to betray the Gaddafi clan’s increasing isolation, declared that as much as 85 per cent of the country was now “very calm and very safe”.
“It is now 2pm in Tripoli and it is very calm and quiet – 50 or 60 per cent of the people are working normally,” the former professional footballer said.
Despite his claims, there was clear evidence emerging from Libya on Wednesday that Col Gaddafi’s grip on the country was continuing to loosen with its third city, Misurata, becoming the first major city in the west to fall to his opponents.
Sounding relaxed and not like a member of a ruling family that expected to be deposed in the near future, Mr Gaddafi disclosed that his brother, Seif al-Islam, was working on a new constitution and would make an announcement about it soon.
His father, he said, was preparing to work with any new regime. “My father would stay as the big father who advises,” he said.
He offered no information on the state of Libya’s extensive hydrocarbons industry but said that the army would be sent to guard facilities, if necessary.
“The army is still very strong,” he said. “If we hear anything, we will send some battalions. When people see the army, they will be afraid.”
Questioned about Libyan diplomats deserting their posts around the world, Saadi Gaddafi, who at one time worked as a professional footballer in Italy, said: “I don’t care about these guys. My diplomacy is to be honest and tell the truth.”
He also admitted that ships and aircraft had been used to bombard ammunition depots near Benghazi in the east of the country, where most of the recent unrest had been concentrated.
But he emphasised that these depots were away from populated areas.
“We sent planes to those hangars full of ammunition,” he said.
He sought to justify the move by claiming that al-Qaeda had taken advantage of the “chaos” to assume control of the eastern region from legitimate protesters and monarchists.
He estimated that there were “thousands” of al-Qaeda militants in Libya.
Destroying the weaponry was the only way of stopping it from falling into the wrong hands in Libya or other long-standing regional trouble spots such as Afghanistan, he argued.
He also claimed that the British government had last year sent SAS forces to eastern Libya to “train our special forces because they were expecting to fight al-Qaeda in this part of the country”.
Like his father and brother earlier in the week, Mr Gaddafi insisted that many protesters had taken “very powerful” drugs, such as amphetamines or ecstasy.
“We have tonnes of the pills they were given,” he said, though he did not know where they had come from.
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