March 17, 2011 — -- The United States and its allies appear poised to take military action on the heels of a U.N. resolution earlier this evening imposing a no-fly zone over Libya and authorizing "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.
Only hours earlier, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi vowed to show no mercy to protesters, saying he would crush the rebellion with a final assault.
Late Thursday, after the U.N. resolution, ABC News' Christiane Amanpour spoke to Gadhafi's son Saif, who was in Tripoli. What follows is a transcript of their conversation.
Christiane Amanpour: Gadhafi Saif is joining me from Tripoli. Can you tell me where you are?
Said Gadhafi: I'm in Tripoli right now.
CA: Are you hiding? Are you worried?
SG: Hiding from whom?
CA: Well, as you know, the U.N. has taken a resolution that would potentially involve air strikes against your father's air defenses and various military emplacements.
SG: I think we are in our country and with our people. As I said before, we live here so we are in our country with our people. And we are not afraid.
CA: What is your father's reaction, your reaction to this resolution that's just been taken?
SG: First of all, it was unfair because, as you know, as you know, from the beginning we told to everybody there were no air strikes against civilians, no bombing of civilian districts or demonstrations. And thousands of those reports showed they were false. And this is No. 1. No. 2, even if you see last week what happened. The army and Libyan volunteers did fight the armored militia and liberated five Libyan cities from them. Have we seen a single civilian casualty? Even the terrorists or the armed people, they just surrender. So there was no bloodshed in Libya.
CA: Let me ask you this. What are you going to do with Benghazi? People in Benghazi are cheering this U.N. resolution because they're afraid of your father's forces.
SG: Listen, this is a big mistake. In Benghazi, we have 1.5 million people. If you are listening to 1,000 or 2,000, that's a different story. But believe me, the people there are living in misery and it is a big mess. You know, the armored militia yesterday, they killed four young boys in Benghazi. Why? Because they were against them. Everybody is terrified because of the armed militia. They live in terror. Nightmare. Armed people are everywhere. They have their own courts. They execute the people who are against them. No school. No hospital. No money. No banks. Do you think the people are happy? Of course not. We are receiving every day on TV, every day, hundreds of calls from Benghazi. Every day people are crying saying, "Please come and liberate us from this nightmare." Those terrorists. The people are not happy there. Are you happy if you're in a city which is controlled by gangsters and armed people and armed militia?
CA: Let me ask you this. It's the Arab League who is really asking for intervention. And it's very unusual. They don't think that the people of Libya are alright. They believe that they are being slaughtered.
SG: First of all, Libya is not Bahrain, where like 78 percent of the population are against the royal family and the other countries are sending tools to oppress them. In Libya, it's the other way around. And the Arabs want to settle accounts with Libya. We know that. And by the way, there's a funny story here in Libya. Everyone is happy with America because people hear that the United States is against airstrikes against Libya and is not supporting British and French, Britain and France. So people here, they are angry with the Europeans. And for the first time in modern history, they like the Americans and are happy with America. And that's why, like today, people said when the army captured the New York Times correspondent in the city of [unintelligible] because she entered the city illegally, but when they found out she was American they said it's OK. You're good people. We'll free you. Even here in Libya. Because people think that Arabs and Europeans betrayed the Libyan people. And they have their own agenda. And they think the Americans have a different position. And they have, like you say, different position toward Libya. So the Arabs, as usual they are hypocrites. In Bahrain, they have proven to oppress the Bahraini people. And in Libya, no demonstration that we are Libyan fighting the armored militia and terrorists. And they are against us.
CA: Saif, let me ask you something: The four New York Times journalists -- are they going to be freed? Where are they right now?
SG: You know, they entered country illegally and when the army, when they liberated the city of Ajdabiyah from the terrorists and they found her there and they arrest her because you know foreigners in this place. But then they were happy because they found out she is American, not European. And thanks to that she will be free tomorrow. But I told you that here the people are welcoming the American position and not the Europeans and the Arabs. We are very angry at the Europeans and the Arabs because they are happy with you if you are strong -- they have contracts, they have deals and oil. If you are weak, everybody is against you. This time, the Americans are different.
CA: But this time, Americans have voted for this resolution. You know, your father told us that the whole country loves him, that his people love [him], and clearly that is not the case because in so many parts of the country they were rising up against him. Do you think your father deserves now to remain head of Libya after all these killings, after all this fighting?
SG: We said this many times in the past -- that we are going to have new competition and a new system, and you will see the birth of a new Libya soon. This is settled, and once and for all. But please, I want to tell everybody, like two days ago, when the armed militia in the city of [unintelligible] surrendered to the army. They surrendered to the army because they are cowards and they escaped. Half a million people living there, they are happy and went to rallies and everybody was happy. Why? Because they were controlled by the militia for two weeks. The same in Al Zawiha, the same thing In El Salta woof, in all the cities. Have you seen single civilian casualty? And everybody was happy, everybody was happy to show me. If you want to support the terrorists and the armed militia, OK, so go and support bin Laden and al Qaeda and the mafia in Sicily or in Boston and New York. They want safety and they want peace and order, law and order. We want to live in peace, so we want even Americans to help us get rid of the remnants of those people and to have a peaceful country, more democratic. If you want to help us, help us to, you know, to be democracy, more freedom, peaceful, not to threaten us with air strikes. We will not be afraid. Come on! We will not be afraid. I mean, you are not helping to the people if you are going to bomb Libya, to kill Libyans. You destroy our country. Nobody is happy with that. If you want to help us help us against terrorists, help us to build the new Libya with more democracy, more freedom, new constitution, local governments, et cetera. But if you want to help Libyans, you send airplanes to bomb my country? Of course not.
CA: Saif, you said tonight that military operations are over, the U.N. resolution is too late. What do you mean by that?
SG: Why? Because even-- Listen, I'll give you a small example. Now, we did liberate most of the country, even the city of [unintelligible] is next to the Egyptian border. There is the green flag and we get rid of the [unintelligible] and it's a very safe and peaceful city. The people themselves in the city of [unintelligible] did liberate. In the city of [Benjawi?], the people did fight for their city and liberated their city from the [capital?], even without the help of the Libyan army. Just give you two examples: [unintelligible] the same thing in Benghazi. Now even in Benghazi, they fled city. They escaped. And my father said tonight, "You boys, you lay down your arms and we pardon you." And this will happen. They laid down arms, so most of them have been neutralized. Except maybe a few of them are still there. Who knows?
CA: Tell me what is going to happen. Are you going to free, release the four New York Times journalists?
SG: As I said, believe me, this is not my decision, but the people here now, the news here in Libya, I don't know why they are annoyed with Americans. ... People are very angry with Arabs and Europeans, and I heard this is not because of that. They will release her although she entered country illegally.
CA: Thank you very much, indeed.
SG: You're welcome.