MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
And we begin this hour with Libya.
Fighting raged today in the port city of Misrata, the only city in the west of the country still under partial rebel control.
In a moment, we'll hear from NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro who found herself in the middle of fighting there.
BLOCK: First, to Tripoli, where leader Moammar Gadhafi makes occasional orchestrated appearances before rapturous crowds. He's left the day-to- day task of speaking to the world on behalf of his embattled regime to his information minister, Moussa Ibrahim.
Earlier today, I spoke with Ibrahim about a number of issues, beginning with a peace plan put forth by the Turkish government. It would require a ceasefire in cities surrounded by Libyan forces, also a humanitarian corridor and a negotiated political process, including free elections.
MOUSSA IBRAHIM: The Turkish proposal that indicates a general roadmap which allows the Libyan nation, the Libyan people to decide what political system they want and what kind of leadership they are seeking, we welcome and we are ready and prepared to initiate the process of transition and political change as long as this takes place from within Libya, not from outside Libya.
BLOCK: Would that include a ceasefire as the Turkish government is calling for?
IBRAHIM: We announced and kept our promise for a ceasefire for three weeks now. We are the only party that announced a ceasefire. We also asked for observers, international observers to come on the ground to judge that we are keeping our ceasefire. No one sent us international observers. Instead, we were sent rockets and bombs.
BLOCK: I'm puzzled by this notion that you've been observing a ceasefire. All reports are that the siege, say, of Misrata is fierce and ongoing.
IBRAHIM: In international law, you are not breaking your promise of a ceasefire if you are attacked from air by rockets and you are fighting back, or if the other party attacks you, then you have the right to defend yourself and attack back without breaking your ceasefire.
What we are saying is that we are keeping defensive positions for our army. We are being attacked from the air by the NATO and on the ground by the rebels, who are advancing hundreds of kilometers westbound without any condemnation or any position taken by the international community against that.
BLOCK: People, though, who have fled the city of Misrata have described tanks blasting that city, snipers targeting civilians inside the city, that this is not...
IBRAHIM: The - we completely refuse these reports. These people are not civilians. They are armed rebels. As you know, rebels are in civilian clothing usually.
As a matter of fact, the armed rebels are the ones killing people. They are the ones destroying Misrata. We are trying to reconnect electricity, water, services and help people escape the city that is under, you know, attack by the armed rebels.
BLOCK: Moussa Ibrahim, there are also reports that two of Moammar Gadhafi's sons, Saif and Saadi, are advocating for their father's ouster and a move of Libya toward constitutional democracy. Can you confirm anything in those reports?
IBRAHIM: As for the Gadhafi family, it's a Libyan family. They have no right to govern Libya. They have no right to decide the future of Libya. It doesn't matter whether it's Saif Islam or Saadi or anyone, the future of Libya is decided by the Libyans, all of them, in the east, in the west and the south.
As for the leader himself, Moammar Gadhafi, he's a unifying figure for Libyans. He's a safety valve. He's a guy who's able to lead the tribes who have feuds between them and problems and conflicts. He's the one able to lead the tribes towards political change gradually and peacefully within 10 years, 15 years, 20 years. Democracy is a long process, you know?
As for the sons of the leader, they have no right to decide what should happen to the Libyan nation.
BLOCK: Moussa Ibrahim...
BLOCK: ...it's hard to see how Moammar Gadhafi can be seen as a unifying figure in the country, uniting the tribes, where everyone loves him, as he claims, when you have a civil war ongoing and not just in the east of the country but in cities near Tripoli and Zawiya and Misrata.
IBRAHIM: We don't have - Melissa, this is the false media reporting. We do not have so far a civil war in Libya. We have an armed rebellion. There's a huge difference. But as I said, if you are challenging my view on this, we welcome that.
Come to the ground. Let's have a peaceful process of change. Let's have elections, and let's see who wins the elections. We are ready for that.
If they want a monarchy, let's have a monarchy. If they decide for democracy, let's go for democracy. Libyans need to decide their future.
BLOCK: Do you understand that there may some skepticism since there have been no free and fair elections in Libya, and Moammar Gadhafi has been in power now for 42 years?
IBRAHIM: We have understood that we needed to change for a long time. That's why I came back to Libya. I was in Europe. I lived in Europe for a long time. I saw that there was a chance for a change in Libya. I came back to help make this change possible.
Now, I feel that through this armed rebellion, the chance for peaceful, gradual change in Libya has been taken away from us because these people are going to cause a civil war. Tribes will fight against each other.
I give you a simple example. Think of Iraq. Iraq is a much more civilized developed country, institutionalized country than Libya, and look at it: eight years after the American invasion of Iraq, it's divided, no dignity, no sovereignty, civil war and certainly no democracy.
Do I want Libya to be like Iraq in eight years' time? No. I want Libya to be democratic, transparent, open. I want this to happen from within, peacefully and without foreign military intervention.
BLOCK: Moussa Ibrahim, thank you for talking with us.
IBRAHIM: Thank you, Melissa. Thank you.
BLOCK: Moussa Ibrahim is the information minister for the Gadhafi regime.
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