Official: Reform possible if Gadhafi leads

April 5, 2011 at 7:56 AM
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TRIPOLI, Libya, April 5 (UPI) -- The Libyan government is agreeable to political reform but Moammar Gadhafi must remain in power, a government spokesman said.

Spokesman Moussa Ibrahim called Gadhafi a "unifying figure," while insisting government forces were targeting rebels in a bloody civil war, not civilians, the BBC reported Tuesday.

Speaking in Tripoli, Ibrahim said Gadhafi was "a safety valve for the country to remain together."

Libya was open to political reform, including "elections, referendums, anything," Ibrahim said, as long as Gadhafi was at the helm.

Denying government attacks on civilians, he challenged the international community to investigate allegations of criminal acts, the BBC said.

"We are fighting armed militias," he said. "You are not a civilian if you take up arms."

Fighting continued in the civil war that began as protests against Gadhafi's four-decade regime in mid-February.

One of Gadhafi's sons, Saif Gadhafi, told the BBC former Libyan intelligence head and foreign minister Musa Kusa went to Britain for health reasons and was pressured into making allegations about Libya's government to secure immunity. British Prime Minister David Cameron has said immunity from prosecution would not be available to Kusa, who defected last week.

The younger Gadhafi denied that Kusa had information on the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and other atrocities.

"The British and the Americans -- they know about Lockerbie, they know everything about Lockerbie so there are no secrets anymore," Gadhafi told the BBC.

On Monday, the Obama administration dropped financial sanctions against Kusa, saying it hoped the decision would encourage other senior Gadhafi aides to leave, The New York Times reported.

However, the decision is a double-edged sword for U.S. and British authorities, who said Scottish police and prosecutors planned to interview Kusa about the Lockerbie bombing and other issues "in the next few days," observers said. Kusa's knowledge of Gadhafi's inner circle could be of enormous help to strip Gadhafi of support, one observer said, but Kusa also is believed to be involved in acts of terrorism and murder over the last three decades.

"He was both the left arm and the right arm of the regime, its bloodhound," Dirk Vandewalle, a Dartmouth College professor and a student of Libya, told the Times.

Brian P. Flynn, a New York resident whose brother, J.P. Flynn, died in the Lockerbie bombing, said ending the sanctions bothered him and other family members of the 270 victims, who believe Kusa had a role in ordering the bombing.

"It's all logical in the diplomatic game they need to play," said Flynn, vice president of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103. "But at what cost to our system of justice? He's a mass-murder suspect."

Administration officials said dropping the sanctions weren't related to the investigation of crimes Kusa may have committed in office. A Treasury Department official said the sanctions were dropped because Kusa resigned his position before fleeing and no longer was a Libyan government official.

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