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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Libya Uprising

Aired March 5, 2011 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, trouble, danger, and defiance.

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LEMON: An erratic Moammar Gadhafi stands tough and so does a U.S. president.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Colonel Gadhafi needs to step down from power. It is the right thing to do.

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LEMON: But the bombings and gunshots continue to kill. As thousands flee one chaotic country to another. How it all ends, impacts the world.

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LEMON: Hello and welcome to our viewers around the world to CNN special report on the uprising in Libya. I'm Don Lemon.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm John Vause from CNN International.

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VAUSE: It's early Sunday morning in Libya. What began as a popular uprising a few weeks ago is beginning to look more and more like a civil war. On one side are rebel forces who have seized control of key cities in eastern Libya. On the other, a defiant Moammar Gadhafi maintains an iron grip over the capital Tripoli.

LEMON: And Zawiya is a key city just west of Tripoli. It's also been a major point of contention. Opposition forces say pro-Gadhafi troops were driven out of the center of the city today to the outskirts, but government has been relying on fighter jets and helicopters to strike rebel strongholds and strategic targets including a large weapons depot in the eastern city of Benghazi.

VAUSE: And on the rebels claim who have shot down one of those fighters, the Soviet-made jet crashed with two pilots aboard in the desert city outside of Ras Lanuf. Now, the rebels also say they captured that strategic oil town. LEMON: And we begin tonight's special coverage with CNN's Ben Wedeman who journeyed out to the crash site and saw for himself the wreckage of that jet fighter and the headless bodies of the two crew men.

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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anti- Gadhafi fighters say they took down, they shot down a Libyan Air Force plane about eight kilometers southeast of Ras Lanuf. That town recently liberated from Libyan army forces.

We went to the site. We saw that over about a kilometer, there was debris from a Sukhoi 24 fighter bomber. That's an old Soviet era jet. It was strewn for about a kilometer over the desert. We also found that the two bodies of the pilots there, headless. Some of the people in the area were claiming that one of the pilots was Syrian. But we didn't find any evidence of that.

Now, the forces in the area claimed they shot it down with an anti-aircraft gun, but there's no evidence on the scene to explain how the plane came down. Whether it was shot down or simply crashed. But it could be a significant development because the Achilles' heel of the anti-Gadhafi forces were trying to advance westward has been Libyan Air Force jets and helicopters flying over the area.

In fact, we did see one of those helicopters firing on opposition positions just to the west of Ras Lanuf. In Ras Lanuf, itself, we saw that the opposition forces are regrouping. They're bringing in more heavy equipment including tanks and anti-personnel carriers. They're bringing in food, more weaponry and ammunition. They say they are preparing to move in the direction of Sirt, but that is a city that's traditionally loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. In fact, that's his birthplace, and there are a lot of military placements, camps and air bases around that city.

Nonetheless, the rebels say they're going to move in that direction. And now that they have this apparent victory they say, the fact that they were able to shoot down one of the Libyan Air Force jets, they're even more confident and perhaps a bit cocky.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Ajdabiya in eastern Libya.

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LEMON: All right, Ben. And, John, you know, scores of migrants desperate to escape the turmoil are packing up their belongings and heading for the safety outside of Libya.

VAUSE: Yes. So far, the U.N. says nearly 200,000 refugees have already fled the violence, about half of them have crossed the boarder into Tunisia. But even for those who are accustomed to extreme hardship, life is getting worse.

Becky Anderson is near the Tunisian-Libyan border. She filed this report. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yasser and his friends have been in this tent to Djerba airport in Tunisia since Friday. For these Egyptians, just getting to this patch of dry ground was a hellish journey that started in Libya nearly a week ago.

"Life in Libya was normal. I used to work at a store in a commercial area," he says, "and then the situation changed, and the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi happened. We were afraid because he said the Egyptians and the Tunisians were giving the Libyan people hallucination pills. We were afraid."

Like Yasser, everyone queuing is tired and weary.

(on camera): It may be relatively orderly here, but what many of these men have witnessed on their journey can only be described as a nightmare.

(voice-over): Chaos earlier in the week. Foreign workers desperate to get out of Libya and into Tunisia caught up in a frenzied scrum between the two borders. This exhausted man made it, hauled to safety. But it's another day officials tell me one man Bangladeshi man had a heart attack on the way and died. For the 13,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers who survived the journey, the U.N.'s transit camp three miles down the road is home for now at least.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No money.

ANDERSON: They're accustomed to hardships. They show us I.D. cards from the companies they say hadn't pay them for months. When the fighting started, they fled. On the journey, they were robbed at gunpoint, they says, by the Libyan army. Their phones and any money they did have stolen.

At the camp, there's clean water and food. The aid agencies are doing what they can. It's crowded and it's grim, but it's not yet the humanitarian catastrophe that officials had feared. How long they'll be here is unclear. Their government says its main purpose is not to evacuate Bangladeshis, but to help the 40,000 or so who are still in Libya. So far now they watch as men from other nations pile on to buses bound for the airport.

Yasser tells me he can't wait to see his seven brothers and sisters back home, but while he whiles away the hours waiting for his flight to freedom, he tells me he is scared.

"My family was living off the money I was making and sending them, and now there's no work and frankly now I don't know what to do," he says. "God willing when I get back to Egypt, life will be normal and life will have changed after the revolution." After all he's been through, a change for the better he hopes.

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VAUSE: And, Don, Becky Anderson joins us now live from the city, or the town, rather, of Djerba.

And, Becky, I imagine that for thousands of refugees who are there now, they'll be staying in those camps for a lot longer than they thought.

ANDERSON: Yes, they will be, unfortunately. At the airport, Yasser and his friends are hoping that they will get out as soon as possible. It's been a very long journey.

As you saw, John, and they are being promised flights are leaving regularly at this point. Yesterday, many Egyptians, it's mostly Egyptians who are now at the airport. Some are being flown out. They were concerned that the Egyptians themselves hadn't sent planes yesterday. Very difficult to get numbers and certainly the international community had planes on the ground yesterday. Evacuating people. But there are still thousands there at the airports. They will be got out eventually over the next few days, but as you can see at the U.N. camp which is about 100, 150 odd miles from here up at the border, at the Bangladeshi contingent for example, 13,000 of them who are still there simply waiting and hoping that they will at some point get some help.

The international community has got to be said is ramping up its efforts as you saw. There's food, there's water and there are hospitals facilities now. Mobile ones. Set up at the tent. But it really is a pretty grim affair. John?

LEMON: Becky, it is Don.

Can you update us on the situation as it comes to the numbers of people who are leaving? Because at first, there were large numbers of people and then they said it had slowed because they were pressured not to leave. Some of their cell phones were taken and said some were even beaten.

ANDERSON: Yes. This is a really interesting point. They had about 1,000 evacuees over the border every hour at its height. So that was about 72 hours ago now. What the U.N. is really concerned about is why there are now seeing just a trickle coming over the border. The hope is, of course, that those who want to leave have actually made it to the border and are across, but it's very difficult to assess what's going on just on the other side. And there are concerns that the Libyan army may be preventing those who want to leave from leaving.

No evidence of that as of yet, and it's very difficult to assess what's going on from people who are coming across the border. They're quite unwilling, certainly the Libyans. And we have seen some Libyans coming across. They're unwilling really to say anything at this point.

So over the next couple of days if they continue to see, what was it, 3,000 in total across the border yesterday. If they continue to see that, they'll begin to see a trend, they say, and they'll want to see them make a decision to those who want to leave are leaving, but they've got a real grave concern about what is going on just on the other side.

VAUSE: And Becky, Tunisia is a small country which has been dealing with its own upheaval. This is where all of this uprising began a month or so ago. So how are the people there dealing and how are they greeting these refugees as they flow across the border? I've heard reports that they're actually giving what resources they have to try and help the thousands of this people. But they really don't have the resources there to deal with such an influx.

ANDERSON: Yes. This is what is quite incredible. We have been talking about this as I've been here on the ground. Humanity is quite unbelievable. The Tunisians are giving their time, their efforts, their food, their water. They're giving it for free.

And at camp you see students, you know, the early 20s and who have come out of university and gotten themselves up to the camps and they're just helping out. The Tunisian army has done the most amazing job. This is an aid effort, aid agency effort and the Tunisian army effort.

I haven't seen anything of the like before in my experience on the road. They're just working as hard as they can. As you say, there's very little organization as it is in this country so far as its government is concerned at this point. Things are very, very difficult. But the Tunisians have vowed that they will help their fellow men. And they're also very proud, John, that much of what is happening across this region was really inspired by what happened here with the revolution. So, yes, it's an effort as I say by aid agencies, but very much by the Tunisians themselves.

LEMON: Becky Anderson in Djerba, Tunisia.

Thank you, Becky.

VAUSE: Well, next, the U.S. military is playing a humanitarian role in the region, but what else should they do about Libya's crisis?

LEMON: Yes, particularly when it comes to the issue of a no-fly zone, and how it would be enforced. CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is next.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Colonel Gadhafi needs to step down from power and leave. That is good for his country. It is good for his people. It's the right thing to do.

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VAUSE: The unrest in Libya and other parts of the region is sending the global oil markets into $100 a barrel territory and it probably won't stop there.

LEMON: Yes, and that's just the beginning. There are a host of critical strategic issues in Libya that could profoundly affect the people around the world. And that's why the U.S. military is quietly moving its assets just in case.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now live from Washington.

Barbara, good evening to you. What are Pentagon officials telling you tonight?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening to both of you. You know, the Pentagon is keeping an eye on this crisis now 24/7. The concerns are very fundamental and they start with the humanitarian crisis that we are seeing unfolding, but there is now a feeling that this violence inside Libya will be a sustained conflict if not a full-out civil war. And that is going to pose very significant problems, humanitarian problems, problems of political unrest in the region and real concerns about what does the United States do.

What does the world community do if Moammar Gadhafi really opens up on Libyan civilians? If he really goes after them full bore and you start to see mass killings? That is the nightmare scenario that we've all talked about, and that's what the Obama administration, frankly, is struggling with right now.

LEMON: And Barbara, tell us about this -- how bad can it get? We spoke about this earlier because as it's been reported before, many don't believe that he is going to step down and if he does, there's going to be bloodshed. How bad of a scenario can it get? We're talking possible chemical weapons here.

STARR: Well, right. I mean, Gadhafi has stores of mustard gas. That in itself is a nightmare scenario, of course, though it is not in a form where it's a weapon. Certainly it poses a deadly threat. What if he starts using that? So, what does the Pentagon have in place?

There are two marine amphibious warships in the Mediterranean. There's an aircraft carrier nearby in the Red Sea. Certainly there are fighter aircraft positioned throughout Europe as there always are. There are the NATO allies throughout Europe. But there's very little stomach in the region for seeing western intervention, you know. Pardon me.

This is ten years of war already in the region. Afghanistan, Iraq. Most of the countries there are very leery about any U.S. intervention. So that's going to be the problem, as well. If the violence gets worse, if Libyan civilians start being attacked in very significant, large numbers, what does the West do? What does the Obama administration do? Very interesting.

President Obama this week said, he wanted the U.S. to be able to act rapidly if it came to that, but there's no clear consensus on what that would be now.

VAUSE: Well, Barbara, on that issue, we're just hearing now from witnesses telling CNN that there is, in fact, reports of heavy gun fire in Tripoli's Green Square. It's been going on for the past ten minutes.

Also, these witnesses are telling CNN that they're hearing screaming right now. As we know, Green Square, that's the center of Tripoli. That's where there's been a number of pro-Gadhafi demonstrations over the last couple of weeks. Also, some anti-Gadhafi demonstrations, as well. I'm hearing these reports of heavy machine gun fire, heavy automatic weapons fire in Green Square.

But we look at this development and we look at the limited options that the U.S. has right now, what really is on the table? I mean, is there a possibility of covert options here by the United States and maybe by Britain as well? What are they actually talking about at the Pentagon?

STARR: Right. I mean, when you hear the phrase, all options are on the table. So what are we talking about? A lot of talk in Washington this week and in Europe about a no-flow fly zone.

Secretary Gates at the Pentagon says, you know, he calls that loose talk. He says that's the equivalent of essentially going to war. You would have to start bombing Libya's radar sites to enforce a no-fly zone. And it's not clear what that would achieve because Gadhafi has significant ground force capability. This is not just air strikes that he's using against people.

So next, what about arming the opposition? What about some kind of covert weapons program to smuggle more weapons in to them? But who is the opposition in Libya? That's what people will tell you. Is it really wise to arm them even more? Where might those weapons go?

The intelligence assessment right now is that the rebel, the opposition force, has captured a significant number of weapons and defectors have come over to their side. That they have anti-aircraft guns, they have shoulder-fired missiles. They have small arms. They have machine guns. They have tanks. They have armored vehicles. So the opposition forces now have also armed themselves very significantly. They have troops that have defected. They have generals. They have command and control to some extent. Where they are operating, and that is what you are now seeing unfold.

You're seeing the Gadhafi forces counter attack against the opposition forces. And I think everyone believes that it is going to get worse in the next several days.

VAUSE: Seems to be getting worse right now. Thank you, Barbara Starr, live for us in Washington tonight.

LEMON: And next, a look back at what brought Libya to its boiling point.

VAUSE: Like its neighbors, Libya's turmoil has much to do with economic hardships and a hunger for change among its younger generation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VAUSE: Welcome back. It may seem like a lifetime to the people of Libya, but actually it's only been a little more than two weeks since this uprising began, threatening to topple a leader who's held an iron grip on power for more than 40 years.

LEMON: And of course, what's happening in Libya didn't happen by accident and it didn't happen in a vacuum. In recent weeks, the Libyan people only needed the look to their east and to their west to see how a people acting together can change history.

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LEMON (voice-over): Freedom's cry erupted in Tunisia, deposing a dictator. Engulfed Egypt, ousting a president.

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Swept across Libya virtually unrestrained until colliding with a defiant Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.

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MOAMMAR GADHAFI, PRESIDENT OF LIBYA (through translator): We are prepared to break any aggression by the people. The armed people.

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LEMON: By mid-February, anti-Gadhafi forces had taken strategic towns in the east of the country, including Benghazi, Libya's second largest city where one of the Gadhafi's palaces had been trashed by dissidents.

Ill-equipped and largely untrained, but not afraid to risk their lives for freedom.

Some died. Nearly a thousand by one account. Gadhafi fought hard turning air strikes and live ammunition against civilians. The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved sanctions on Libya. There were some calls for direct action.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (R), CONNECTICUT: I begin with the imposition of a no-fly zone so that Gadhafi can't be attacking his own people from the air.

LEMON: In Libya on the day after the U.N. vote, there were deadly clashes over control of the rebel-held town of Zawiya and Misurata, west of the capital. Days later in the east, two towns controlled by dissidents of Brega and Ajdabiya were bombed for the second straight day. Followed by a report that the government was once again in control of Zawiya. And at the center of the conflict, Saif Gadhafi. Defiant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): "Thousands and thousands of people will be killed."

LEMON: Determined. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I came here in order to greet you. Greet your courage and I tell you to repel them.

LEMON: And at times, delusional.

MOAMMAR GADHAFI, PRESIDENT OF LIBYA: They love me all.

LEMON: Meanwhile, Libya became a no-man's land for foreigners including the country's vast number of foreign guest workers. Some 200,000 are said to have fled, many across the border with Tunisia creating a mass refugee crisis.

The airports were swamped by polyglot mobs scrambling to get out. A ferry chartered to evacuate Americans was held up by weather in the port of Tripoli. Despite the chaos and the fighting, there is hope diplomacy will work. But inside Libya, more demonstrations and more fighting, while Gadhafi wrapped in his cocoon of security hangs on.

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LEMON: How much longer can he hang on? That's the question.

VAUSE: How many will die until he goes?

LEMON: Absolutely.

The uprising in Libya is having a major impact on the price of oil and also a major impact on the rest of the world, John.

VAUSE: Next, we'll walk you through the effect and how this will actually impact on so many of you out there.

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LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. Libya's place in the world is not determined by its size or military might. It is determined by one thing -- oil. Libya is a little larger than Alaska, but it's one of the top ten oil-rich countries on the planet.

VAUSE: So that means any disruption in Libya means a disruption in world oil supplies with serious implications for all of us.

Let's talk about this with Gordon Chang. He is a columnist of Forbes.com.

Gordon, I didn't get it. We're continually told there's an abundance of supply. The Saudis will kick in. They'll pick up whatever the Moammar Gadhafi stops pumping out. So why are prices still going up? Is it just an abundance of fear?

GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, FORBES.COM: I think there's a lot of fear. There's this interruption supply risk premium that trader's talk about. And that really is driving the market for oil. We saw this week that the price of crude went up 6.7 percent. It is now at $104. People are really talking about these crazy numbers because they're worried not just about Libya, but Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain. You know, it's just right now, people are thinking the sky is the limit for change in Arab societies.

LEMON: Let's talk about Libya now. And, you know, this is as we have been saying really unprecedented. Is there something about this story that catches your eye and you've spoken before, you've talked about a national transitional council. I think that's important to you.

CHANG: It is very important because it shows the mentality of the opposition. The opposition is not thinking of leaving the country. They're thinking they can actually end the 41-year rule of Gadhafi. And once they start to work together, they're going to coordinate their efforts, they're going to be much more effective in a military sense, but also, they're going to be able to attract support from around the world.

You know, we heard from Barbara Starr just a little bit ago about the objections to a no-fly zone and to help to the Libyans. A lot of those objections disappear once you have a government in place. It may not control the entire country, but nonetheless what it is is going to attract international support including support from the United States.

VAUSE: Yes. But Gordon, if you look at where the fighting is right now, where really it's concentrated and right now it appears to be focusing on those oil-producing centers, Zawiya, Ras Lanuf and other centers as well. So that really would indicate that Gadhafi is determined to keep control of the oil supplies, if the country splits down the middle because, obviously, Libya is still pumping out oil and that revenue is still coming into the regime.

CHANG: Yes, it is. And one of the most important factors that we have seen over the last day or so is that those oil centers are falling to the opposition. And this has got to worry Gadhafi because bit by bit he's losing his country. And now that you've got the opposition coalescing, they're going to be extremely effective in being able to surround Gadhafi's fortresses, which is Tripoli and his hometown. These places could easily fall because they're going to be surrounded by the opposition.

LEMON: Gordon Chang, thank you. Stick around. We're going to be talking with Gordon later on in the broadcast.

VAUSE: You know, we know a lot about the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. But how much do we know about his family?

LEMON: Yes. Next, a look at Gadhafi's wealth, power and as John said, his family.

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LEMON: We want to update our viewers with some information we just got in to CNN, and it's coming from central Tripoli. Witness there says that she can hear heavy automatic gun fire coming from central Tripoli, that it is intermittent now and it's coming from one side, she believes. In between, she can hear screams and sirens. She says she's not sure if the sirens are police or if it's ambulances coming through. But, again, this is just coming in. We've been hearing the reports about Gadhafi and his militias fighting back against the protesters.

VAUSE: So it sounds like protesters being fired on.

LEMON: Yes.

VAUSE: At this point, we can't be surprise.

LEMON: Yes.

VAUSE: Well, the family of Moammar Gadhafi has lived a life of luxury with the wealth estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars.

LEMON: Yes, luxury to say the least. The sons have run the Libya Olympic Committee, the country's football federation, held key military posts and also gained a reputation for partying and occasional troubles with the law. We have been reporting here.

Our Michael Holmes takes a closer look.

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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A 68-year-old Moammar Gadhafi has been married twice and has eight biological children and two adopted. One of whom died.

His first wife Fatiha was a schoolteacher. They were married only six months. They had a son, Muhammad, who is now 40 and the head of Libya's Olympic committee. He's also chairman of the company that operates cell phone and satellite services in Libya.

Gadhafi's second wife, Safia Farkash, was once his nurse and is the mother of seven of his children. 38-year-old Saif al-Islam may be the most recognized and outspoken of those offspring. He attended the London School of Economics and now heads a global charity. Once seen as an advocate of reform, more recently he's been a vocal defender of his father's regime.

SAIF AL-ISLAM GADHAFI, SON OF LIBYAN LEADER MOAMMAR GADHAFI: We have plan A, plan B, plan C. Plan "A" is to live and die in Libya. Plan "b" is to live and die in Libya. Plan "C" is to live and die in Libya.

HOLMES: Another son, Saadi, is a former football player. He played for Perugia in Italy for one season and now runs the Libyan Football Federation. Leaked diplomatic cables posted on WikiLeaks claim he had, quote, "scuffles with police in Europe."

Mutassim is Colonel Gadhafi's fourth son. He is a national security adviser and a commander in the Libyan Army. He visited Washington in April 2009 where he met with the Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Leaked diplomatic cables described an intense personal rivalry and power struggle between Mutassam and his brother Saif. Mutassim has also attracted attention for his party habits, including this lavish New Year 's Eve party on the island of St. Barts in 2009. Diplomatic cables described it as a million-dollar personal concert with Beyonce and Usher performing.

Ayesha is Colonel Gadhafi's only biological daughter. She's trained as a lawyer and served on former Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein's defense team. She also defended the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoe at the former U.S. President George W. Bush. The United Nations recently terminated her role as a goodwill ambassador for her role in supporting the Libyan regime. She quickly responded to that decision.

AYESHA GADHAFI, DAUGHTER OF LIBYAN LEADER MOAMMAR GADHAFI: All the Libyans who know me and I knew them, they know that I'm the goodwill ambassador with or without the United Nations.

HOLMES: Another son, Hannibal, also in his 30s and no stranger to controversy. He's been arrested several times including in 2008 when he was arrested in Geneva for allegedly beating two of his servants. The charges were later dropped, but the case caused an international uproar. The Libyan government threatened to punish Switzerland with sanctions including cutting off their oil supply unless he was released.

Then there's Khamis Gadhafi said to be in the 30s as well and a military commander. According to leaked diplomatic cables, his 32nd brigade is, quote, "widely known to be the most well-trained and well- equipped force in the Libyan military." That same brigade may have been involved in attacks on protesters.

Little is known about Saif al-Arab among the youngest of Gadhafi's children. He's said to be 29 years old and living in Munich, Germany.

Gadhafi adopted a nephew, Milad, who said to have save Gadhafi's life in the U.S. bombing of his compound in 1986. Hannah, an adopted daughter was killed in that bombing when she was just 15 months old.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: And Gadhafi's military now versus Libya's opposition forces, how do they compare?

VAUSE: Next, there are reports of Libyan army defectors and that could be crucial to the opposition.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: The battle for Libya could ultimately result in a deadlock. The government forces had held on to the west. The opposition, still in control of the east.

LEMON: And as CNN Brian Todd reports, he explains the final outcome may hinge on just how strong and perhaps more importantly how loyal Moammar Gadhafi's forces are.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With intense fighting, including this battle at an airport about 100 miles from the capitol, Moammar Gadhafi's forces face a huge challenge. CNN's teams on the ground have been able to give us a picture of what territory Gadhafi has lost and what he's held onto.

(on camera): Rebel forces have captured the cities of Tebruk, Benghazi and Misurata. Forces loyal to Muammar Gadhafi hold the cities of Tripoli, the capitol, and the city of Sirt. But the city of Zawiya is in contention. We're told that rebels hold parts of the city but that government forces are battling them. We're also told that government forces are massing around the cities of Zawiya and Misurata.

(voice-over): Defections have been crucial. Whole army units are reported to have gone to the opposition and brought firepower with them: machine guns, tanks, anti-aircraft guns.

(on camera): But the key question is do those defected military forces and the rebels, the lesser trained rebels who are fighting with them, actually know how to use this stuff?

NATE HUGHES, STRATFOR: Right. Well, this is a great example right here. This is a small anti-aircraft artillery cannon. Using it against the jets Gadhafi has been using against Benghazi, for example, is quite difficult. Without a radar to guide it and to give the crew some warning of the approach of jet aircraft, they might not even hear the aircraft until the bombs are already falling and the aircraft is peeling away.

TODD (voice-over): Gadhafi's forces have their own problems. Their only significant deployment was a disastrous war with Chad in the '70s and '80s. Libya suffered serious losses. That turned much of Gadhafi's officer corps against him. Always wary of coup attempts from them, Gadhafi started gutting his military.

What's left are semi-professional security forces built along tribal lines loyal to Gadhafi and his sons. Bottom line, Nate Hughes sees a real potential for a stalemate. He says because neither side seems to have the ability to push long distances and to capture and hold territory, we could see Gadhafi's forces holding the west, the opposition holding the east for a long time.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: All right, Brian.

And you saw Becky Anderson in Tunisia earlier talking about the people leaving there. Tens of thousands of people evacuating Libya, John. VAUSE: Yes. And the United States is actually stepping up efforts to try and help them get out. We want to have a look at that, a closer look at that when we come back.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Over the last two weeks more than 35,000 Egyptians refugees have been evacuated from this airport here in Tunisia, but tonight they're leaving aboard a new kind of aircraft. U.S. Marine cargo planes, at least four expected to come through this airport evacuating Egyptians back to Cairo.

Now more than 100,000 refugees, mostly migrant workers from around the world from a variety of countries have fled the fighting in Libya over the course of this crisis. And they're being evacuated back to Bangladesh, the Philippines, India, China, the largest contingent are Egyptians.

More than a million, more than a million and a half Egyptians are believed to have been working in Libya when this crisis erupted. And the fear is that as the fighting gets worse, Libyan civilians will start to join the refugee population that is trying to flee Moammar Gadhafi's country.

Ivan Watson, CNN at Djerba Airport, Tunisia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So you just saw how non-Libyans were leaving the country. Many are from countries such as Bangladesh, Philippines and China, John.

VAUSE: But as Ivan just pointed out, what would happen if Libyans began to flee their own country on mass?

To answer that, Gordon Chang is back with us again.

And, Gordon, there's a real serious crisis developing within Libya itself. It relies on food inputs, the 90 percent of its supplies. Supplies are running short. So it really is only a matter of time before there's a humanitarian crisis inside the country. What happens if all those people try to get out?

CHANG: Well, you know, the international community will not be able to deal with it. The Tunisians have been really good in trying to help people fleeing from Libya, but they would be just swamped and so is the United States. At least in the initial phases.

The real problem here is for Gadhafi because he is trying to hold on to these cities and those cities could actually be sort of short of food and other essential supplies. This could be a real problem for the Libyan leader.

LEMON: But you know what? The interesting thing is that they are fleeing an unstable country and going to other unstable countries.

CHANG: Yes. And those countries, you know, are in turmoil of their own. You know, the Tunisians, the dictator, Ben Ali left. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak had to leave Cairo. So, you know, this are countries that are just trying to get themselves together at this moment and they're going to be just overwhelmed with Libyans. So I think that it's really important that the international community and especially the United States recognizes, yes, there's a risk in helping the opposition, but I think the risk is much bigger if we let this crisis continue.

LEMON: So all the aid that's pouring in, is it going to be enough?

CHANG: No. You know, it's going to help but nonetheless it's not going to be enough. Considering that the country has been in chaos and not just in selected cities, but really across all of Libya. And that really means that this country has not -- is not going to be able to feed itself. Its oil revenues are down and just the mechanisms of government are not working because of the social unrest.

What we have right now is a really serious situation, which can only get worse.

VAUSE: Gordon, a lot of people are saying that this could develop into a full-blown civil war and that will obviously exacerbate any humanitarian crisis and refugee crisis.

But is this really a civil war or is it much more like say the uprising in Romania back in 1989, where you had a hated dictator and there was this ground swell against his regime?

CHANG: Well, you know, what's a civil war? I mean, what we have are two large oppositions. They are a raid against each other across the country. You know, this really looks like a civil war in my book. I mean, clearly, this is really a country torn in two and they're fighting each other.

VAUSE: OK. Gordon, stay with us because we want to talk to you on the other side of the break. When I think of a civil war, I think about two sides, equal measure with grudges to carry out, but obviously that isn't the case here. But we'll talk more about this with Gordon in a bit.

Right now the eyes of the world is around Libya, especially China and Saudi Arabia.

LEMON: Yes, and that's why we're concerned about what happens here so much. Gordon Chang, stay with us and we're going to tackle that question and more coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Of course we are concerned with the ongoing violence and the actions that are initiated and perpetrated by Gadhafi and his regime against his own people. We are considering a number of ways that we can be of assistance with respect to that. But we are now focused on the humanitarian situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Secretary of State of the United States weighing in, the president has weighed in, as well as leaders across the world are weighing in on this situation with some very direct language here. And no matter what happens in Libya, the shockwaves could travel, John, all around the world.

Two other countries in particular -- Saudi Arabia and China, are among those with the most to lose if this unrest spreads to their doorstep.

VAUSE: Yes, but could it? Gordon Chang, there are already been signs of discontent within the Saudi kingdom. Should the royal family there be nervous?

CHANG: They certainly are. You know, last week, the king came back after his medical leave and he authorized a $36 billion giveaway. Well, I guess it didn't work because today, you know, the king decreed that there may no longer be public demonstrations in Saudi Arabia. I think that although, you know, almost every Arab specialist says that Saudi Arabia is stable, you know, there's just too much going on there right now and the government's reactions really make it look very insecure.

LEMON: And both governments there are aware, they are aware of the insecurities and they know they don't want unrest at their doorsteps.

CHANG: No, they certainly don't. You know, we saw the reaction in China to the so called Jasmine protest. And last week, it was just overwhelming. Not only did they have security forces, they also had thugs. They had -- they cut off the Internet. They had the water cannons, the dogs and they started beating up foreign reporters. And I think that this is creating a murmur of discontent in Chinese society. And certainly, it's creating an awful image for the Chinese government around the world.

VAUSE: And Gordon, you mentioned China. Today, we had the NPC, or Saturday rather in China, it's now Sunday there, but the NPC, they announced their budget, the National People's Congress and for the first time the budget for internal security, for police monitoring as well as surveillance is actually greater than the budget for the defense department.

CHANG: Yes. There is about $95 billion for the security forces. Of course, these numbers are somewhat unreliable. And largely because the government isn't going to tell us all that it's spending on, but nonetheless, it is very significant when they publicly disclose that the security forces in the courts now cost more than the entire people's liberation army. It's very, very significant.

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: But is that a direct result in the Middle East -- is that a direct result to what's happening in the Middle East?

CHANG: No. I think it's a direct result of the instability in Chinese society. Last year, there may have been as many as 230,000 protests in China. We don't know for sure, but clearly the amount of mass disturbances is up from the middle of the last decade when there were perhaps 80,000 to 90,000 protests a year.

You know, China is becoming very, very sort of insecure. The leadership is very insecure and the people are discontented even though that there has been all of this prosperity.

LEMON: Hey, Gordon, short time left here, but let's talk about Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah, $36 billion in benefits to his royal subjects. Announced recently that temporary government jobs would now be considered permanent. Is this an effort to stem the tide?

CHANG: You know, it certainly is and we have seen other Arab leaders try to have these giveaways. They haven't work elsewhere, and I don't think they're going to work in Saudi Arabia because that's not what really the people are concerned about at this point. They want more say in their lives.

LEMON: All right. Gordon Chang, always appreciate it. Great information. I'm Don Lemon at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

VAUSE: And I'm John Vause from CNN International. Stay with CNN, no matter where you are, anywhere in the world for the latest developments on the unrest in Libya and other nations in the Middle East and North Africa.

Thanks for watching. Have a great night.

LEMON: Good night.