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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 17:39 GMT
Saif Gaddafi's vision for Libya
Libya is entering a new phase in its history as it embarks on a programme of domestic and foreign policy reforms.

Saif Gaddafi
Saif Gaddafi believes Libya will benefit from its reform programme
Colonel Gaddafi has publicy abandoned his plans to develop weapons of mass destruction and has agreed to pay compensation to the families of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

At home, regional elections have taken place and there have been changes in the legal system. The country's enormous oil and gas reserves are being opened up to western business.

The BBC's Mike Donkin spoke to the leader's son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi - closely involved in the reform process - about the challenges Libya now faces.

Saif Gaddafi, the state your father brought in here is changing hugely and changing very fast. How would you sum up the new Libya?

Actually, the new Libya is black, because we are African now and we are Mediterranean at the same time.

Then we have two faces on the Libyan coin and two dimensions for our strategic thinking.

Why now? Your father has been the leader here for 35 years, why make these changes now?

You know, here we have a quite dynamic and responsive leadership that we change and we cope with the developments of the world and the surrounding environment.

We have to cope with the changes and adjust to catch up. The whole environment around Libya has changed. Therefore we have to change ourselves according to that.

How would you assess the changes. What are the changes that are taking place?

Tony Blair shakes hands with Colonel Gaddafi
Tony Blair visited Libya earlier this year
Ten years ago we were in conflict with the UK and the United States. We regarded each other as enemies. Today is a different story - we are talking about joint military manoeuvres.

We are talking about how to create and finance an African army and how also to rebuild the Libyan military, modernise the Libyan economy and now they are sending experts.

You played a central role yourself in trying to make peace with America, a country which of course once bombed Libya. Have you had to persuade your father about all of that?

I mean the issue in the beginning was trust because we didn't trust each other at the time, but slowly we managed to bring both parties together. We sat together in one place and talked face to face in order to erase the distrust and I think that was the beginning.

After that everything was OK, because both sides realised that both are genuine and sincere and serious regarding the rapprochement.

Therefore we managed at the end to reach that big compromise regarding WMD, regarding Lockerbie.

So Libya, from now on will be an ally of the United States in the war against terror, for example?

I think so.

Can we talk about reforms at home here? The main economic change here is introducing privatisation isn't it and opening up to outside investment?

Of course we want to bring foreign capital to Libya and we want to bring investment into our country, but we have our own model regarding privatisation.

This is not just like it happened in Russia and we think we have learned lessons from those countries.

Ninety percent of Libya's economy is oil-based. Are you worried that you will lose control of that to foreign oil corporations as you privatise?

No, no, because as I said this a bigger plan. What we are working on right now is how to distribute this big wealth horizontally and how to maximise the benefits for the Libyan people. Therefore, the main goal for the Libyan government is to maximise the benefit for ordinary citizens and enhance their living standards.

This has been called the people's state. How are you going to safeguard Libyan people's jobs here with privatisation?

The Libyan model is how to create opportunities, for first of all the workers of each company, of each factory, of enterprise, plus for other investors, local investors to come in. And then the third step is to bring in foreign capital and it is not the other way around like in other countries.

The leader you cannot change. You can change everything except the leader because he is a leader
Saif Gaddafi
So we are looking, perhaps, to a boom in Libya with everybody sharing in that.

I guess that Libya in the next few years will be the biggest workshop in the world.

What about political reform for the Libyan people because this is a country at the moment which doesn't have free elections, which doesn't have democracy, which doesn't have political parties. Is that all going to change as well?

First of all it is not correct, that sentence, because the biggest evidence that we have started really deepening our democracy happened a few months ago regarding the regional elections.

Will your father be standing for president in future national elections?

The leader you cannot change. You can change everything except the leader because he is a leader.

But you can speak of the prime minister, about ministers, about regional governors and so on. But the leader is something special. You cannot inherit, you cannot take it from him. A special case.

But to get foreign investors in here, to get real trust in Libya they are going to have to believe that these changes are permanent and you can speak for your father in that respect can't you?

I mean I cannot convince them. You cannot convince them, but reality, facts on the ground will convince them.

You will understand for now at least a lot of people are tipping you to succeed him. You have been very active indeed. Is that what might happen?

I can't survive with a direct democracy. You cannot have a direct democracy and a hereditary regime at the same time. They are against each other.


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