- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

SIRTE, Libya — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said yesterday that his country has turned the page on terror and weapons of mass destruction and seeks better relations with the United States.

Col. Gadhafi laid out the views to three American reporters a day after the opening of the Libyan People’s National Congress, where he had announced “a new era” of cooperation with the United States.

Asked whether that new era had been inspired by the recent demonstration of U.S. resolve and military might in Iraq, Col. Gadhafi suggested that it had been a factor.

“We made our own decision and our analysis on the current world situation, and we came to the conclusion … that we can’t … go ahead with having these programs,” Col. Gadhafi said.

“We are part of the world. This is the reality of the world. This is the policy of the world.”

Col. Gadhafi also spoke positively about recent talks with visiting U.S. congressmen, including Republican Reps. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania and Nick Smith of Michigan, and Democratic Reps. Sylvestre D. Reyes and Solomon P. Ortiz, both of Texas.

“We are very much interested that we are able to understand each other,” the Libyan leader said.

“The problem before was that we were not able, we did not have a chance to sit down with each other and have a dialogue. Now we are able to understand each other.”

The following is a partial text of the interview:

Question: What impact did the Iraq war have on your decision to give up weapons of mass destructions?

Answer: We made our own decision and our analysis on the current world situation, and we came to the conclusion … that we can’t … go ahead with having these programs.

Q: So Iraq was no factor at all, then?

A: We are part of the world. This is the reality of the world. This is the policy of the world.

Q: As part of internal reforms, will Islamic organizations be permitted to operate?

A: I would say that there isn’t any justification or reason for that. The people themselves actually assume power and have the power to decide for themselves. Each one who has a word or a say or an opinion is free to do so in the People’s Congress.

Furthermore, we don’t want to involve Allah in material affairs like infrastructure and sewage. He has nothing to do with that. We are talking about material things; we need policy for that. We need technology for infrastructure. We’re talking about infrastructure — sewage, water.

This is policy. God is another thing. How can we involve Allah in [such things] of daily life? We’re talking about houses and electricity.

Q: Last night you talked about Libya’s past involvement with liberation movements and said that times have changed. How have you prepared your people for this change?

A: Our people are very much enlightened and aware, and practicing daily politics in the People’s Congresses, and they are aware of the new reality in the world. Going back 27 years ago to the establishment of the People’s Authority, the whole Libyan people starting practicing and exercising policies and authority. They are very much involved.

Q: You just met with delegations from the U.S. House of Representatives and from the Senate. How do you see the future of relations between Libya and the United States?

A: We are very much interested that we are able to understand each other. The problem before was that we were not able, we did not have a chance to sit down with each other and have a dialogue. Now we are able to understand each other.

Q: Your government has accepted responsibility for the Pan Am 103 [bombing in Lockerbie, Scotland]. But in your heart, do you believe the government of Libya was responsible for this act of terrorism?

A: [The Libyan leader talks with aides and asks for a detailed translation of the question.]

Lockerbie is buried, and we don’t want to dig it up. It has a bad reputation. We don’t want to dig it up when somebody is buried. It is old.

Q: But last night you said you were going to reveal things and tell the Libyan people the truth, the whole truth. Were others involved besides the two people surrendered to the Scottish court — other countries?

A: [Discussion with aides. Translator appears to have difficulty. Protocol chief steps in.]

We’re finished with Lockerbie. It’s something of the past.

Q: Last night, you talked about Libya rejoining the Barcelona initiative. Do you want this to have relations with Israel, or is this not part of your plan?

A: About Israel, our opinion is very much explained in the “White Book,” namely the establishment of “Isratine” or “Israeltine.” They should let us rest and have one country that is one state together.

[The White Book is Col. Gadhafi’s 2002 plan for merging the Jews and Palestinians of Israel into a single state.]

Q: The Bush administration has praised your cooperation regarding al Qaeda. Can you give us one example of what your government has done, or your intelligence agencies have done, that led to an al Qaeda arrest or foiled an al Qaeda plot?

A: Terrorism is the enemy of all of us, not the enemy of America. When we fight terrorism, we do that for ourselves.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer with Insight magazine.

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