Rebel Government Ambassador On Libya's Future

Robert Siegel talks with Ali Suleiman Aujali, the ambassador of Libya's Transitional National Council to the United States. Aujali was formerly the ambassador of the Gadhafi government to the U.S. He quit, and now represents the Libyan rebels. He says the transitional government will need lots of help setting up a new democracy.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host: Now, a talk with the Libyan ambassador to Washington. Ali Suleiman Aujali now represents the transitional national government that's based in Benghazi. He was the Libyan government's ambassador to Washington until he quit earlier this year. Welcome.

Ambassador ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI: Thank you.

SIEGEL: First, let's look ahead to life in Libya if and when the Gadhafi regime falls. What role, if any, should NATO play in your country after the transitional national government takes over?

AUJALI: Well, it is a very important role still after Gadhafi's fall. We need to build our country. We need democratic institution. We need to train our people. We have to secure our borders and we need, of course, technology. We need help personnel. It will be a major, major development in Libya after the regime's collapse.

SIEGEL: As you're describing, you're expecting a very substantial European and North American presence in Libya after the fight.

AUJALI: I believe so. Yes, I do because these people, they helped us in the time we need. Then, we were sent our relation with them - some, of course, with the Arab countries. It is a new chapter in the Libyan life.

SIEGEL: If and when Moammar Gadhafi is captured, what should the authorities, the new authorities do with him? Should they hand him over to the International Criminal Court, should they keep him in Libya to stand trial, pack him on a plane to go to Saudi Arabia, Venezuela? What should you do?

AUJALI: Not to go to Saudi Arabia, Venezuela this is too late.

SIEGEL: So, safe exile is out of the question?

AUJALI: Yeah, it's out of question. The Libyan people, I believe very strongly, they want him to face his challenge in Libya. To hand him to ICC, I cannot really tell at the moment but this would may be the second option.

SIEGEL: The Transitional National Council includes a former justice minister, who's chairman, a former economic development minister, who's prime minister. You're the ambassador to Washington of the transitional government. You were the ambassador to Washington of the old government. All of that raises a question, how different is the new regime in Libya going to be from the old regime? Is it essentially the same people except for the decapitation of the Gadhafi clan from the top or is it going to be a radically different government, as you imagine it?

AUJALI: Well, not everybody work with Gadhafi that means corrupted.

SIEGEL: You're saying not everyone who worked with Gadhafi was corrupted in the process?

AUJALI: No, no. And the doors will be open for the new generation. We have very educated people in United States, in Europe. They're living in exile for a long, long, long time. We have to inject our departments, our institutions with these kind of people.

SIEGEL: But here's a comparison. I'm thinking back and Americans recall pretty clearly what happened in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. He had been a dictator who'd been installed for many years and the United States, with some Iraqi assistance, instituted a program of de-Ba'athification, getting anyone who had belonged to the Ba'athist party out of power. How would you approach that problem?

AUJALI: We don't want to do that.

SIEGEL: You don't want to do that.

AUJALI: We don't want to do that. You know, the Iraqi, they paid a very high price for that and you see what happening in Iraq. We don't want to do that. The revolution opens the doors and their hearts for any Libyan who's willing to help.

SIEGEL: But there has to be some - you're not...

AUJALI: Yeah, yeah.

SIEGEL: ...you're not welcoming any of Gadhafi's sons, I assume, into the new regime.

AUJALI: Of course, no. We are a very small society. We know each other. If he's clear, he's okay. If he's not clear, then he should stand on the side. This is fair enough, I believe.

SIEGEL: If there are no criminal charges against you...

AUJALI: Of course, criminal charges and corruptions.

SIEGEL: ... corruptions, right.

AUJALI: Yeah, that's right.

SIEGEL: Does the TNC, by the way, does the Transitional National Council now have control of Gadhafi's assets?

AUJALI: We're trying. I think the one in Europe and United States and in Canada, they are okay. But we still have in Asia and Africa, that's a little bit difficult.

SIEGEL: How many billions do you reckon are in Europe and North America and how many in Asia and Africa?

AUJALI: Well, I think maybe I don't have all the details, but in general, I hear the former Central Bank of Libya saying that it's about 160, $170 billion.

SIEGEL: One hundred sixty, one hundred seventy billion dollars?

ALI SULEIMAIN AUJALI: About, yes.

SIEGEL: All over the world?

AUJALI: That's what my understanding.

SIEGEL: How much of that 160-170 billion dollars would be in Europe and the United States, as opposed to the other deposits?

AUJALI: I would say maybe about 100 or less.

SIEGEL: Almost $100 billion...

AUJALI: Yes.

SIEGEL: ...would be in...

AUJALI: I think so.

SIEGEL: Say, broadly speaking, in NATO countries where you would have a pretty good chance at getting the money straight away?

AUJALI: Yeah. But it was not easy to get this money. You know, since six months, we're still now fighting to get part of this money to use, you know, for this battle.

SIEGEL: It's a pretty good start for a new government to have a treasury with $100 billion in it.

AUJALI: Well, we are lucky from the side, but we are not lucky to have a leader like Gadhafi who is killing his own people and he doesn't want to leave them alone for at least enjoy a democratic life.

SIEGEL: Well, Ambassador Aujali, thank you very much for talking with us.

AUJALI: Thanks.

SIEGEL: Ali Suleimain Aujali, who is the ambassador of the Transitional National Council, the transitional national government of Libya in Washington. He was the Libyan government's ambassador to Washington until earlier this year.

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