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Global Reaction to Battle for Tripoli; Gadhafi's Whereabouts Unknown; Libya's Former Prime Minister Speaks Out; How Battle for Tripoli Unfolded; What Will It Take For Rebels To Control Tripoli? NATO Worried Loyalists May Stage Last-Ditch Attack; Hurricane Irene Causes Blaze at Virgin Chairman's Home; Images Of Libya On Verge Of New Era; Battle for Tripoli; Interview with Mustapha Ben Halim

Aired August 22, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET

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


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Six months of civil war in Libya could be down to the final hours. The fall of Moammar Gadhafi appears imminent, but the battle is not over yet.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

It's 9:00 p.m. here, 10:00 p.m. in Tripoli.

Here is what is happening right now.

Rebels are trying to rout the last few pockets of resistance after seizing most of the capital in a lightning quick advance. They say the Gadhafi era is over, but they still haven't managed to capture him or even track him down.

And this video was filmed by our CNN crew in Green Square, or Martyrs Square, as it's been renamed, once the symbolic heart of Gadhafi regime. You can hear gunfire and shouting, as rebels take cover from snipers on rooftops. Well, heavy fighting is reported in several areas, including around the presidential compound. The presidential completed Gadhafi loyalists still control that area and some believe the leader himself may be holed up there.

Well, Gadhafi may be a fugitive, but rebels say they have now captured three of his sons. Here's the file pictures of them. Saif al-Islam is on the left, Saddiq in the middle and Mohammed on the right. Gadhafi himself hasn't been seen in public for weeks.

Just yesterday, as rebels broke down Tripoli's defenses, Gadhafi broadcast several defiant audio messages vowing never to surrender.

Well CNN's Sara Sidner has been in Tripoli all weekend following the fast moving developments and she joins us now -- Sara, what can you tell us at this point?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What I can tell you is that we left the city, along with a lot of the rebels, actually, who went to have their evening meal. It was just not safe enough to stay in the city overnight, from what we assessed, the rebels telling us that we were not allowed to go down to Green Square, which is now -- they have renamed or want people to call it Martyrs Square. They say that they have gotten control of about 90 percent of the city. But we heard quite a bit of fighting and gunfire toward the Square, toward, also, Gadhafi's compound.

So, certainly, the battle for Tripoli is not over, the rebels being very, very cautious. Every time there is any kind of rumor of a sniper, everyone goes running, no matter where they are, even if there are few buildings around them. There's a real fear of snipers and for good reason. Apparently, the rebels say, there were snipers in the area shooting from the tops of buildings. And it is very hard to seen. Now that it is dark, this becomes a very difficult war. And -- and remember, the rebels are less equipped than any force you might be thinking about. These are people, many of them, who have come from their neighborhoods from other parts, also, of the country, not just Tripoli. So some of these fighters do not know the city of Tripoli and are reliant on the locals there to -- to get them around.

So important to note that the night battles can be very difficult, very confusing. So it makes people very suspicious and makes things very tense as night falls in the city of Tripoli -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Sara, we are just recon -- or we're just taking a look at video that was shot earlier on. You say that the rebels will rely on locals, as they don't know the area. This has turned into, of course, urban warfare at this point.

Just how well supported are the rebels?

SIDNER: It's hard to gauge that. But I can tell you that when I say they rely on locals who know the area, those are other rebels that they've been training with. They're not just stopping, for example, at someone's door saying where is this area of town or where is that area of town. They have tried to train as much as they can for what they knew would be urban warfare. And I think the one thing that really surprised them was that they did not face the kind of numbers that Moammar Gadhafi had promised would rise up or would fight on his behalf. They were surprised that they were able to get so far into the city so quickly.

Once they got there, though, that's when a bit of the trouble started, because they weren't quite sure what they were dealing with. And it was eerily quiet, I have to tell you. Over the past 24 hours that we've seen these things unfold, at first this morning, there was quite a bit of driving up and down the street. And this afternoon, more of that. This evening, some celebrations, some families coming out.

But as nightfall comes, things get eerily quiet in the -- in the city. People sort of retracting, trying to see what is going on around them. Very difficult. The power is out in -- in a couple of places in this country. So it is very difficult to know just how much of a fight is left in the Gadhafi forces and just how far the rebels will be able to when it is this dark and it's very difficult to navigate the city.

ANDERSON: Two big questions that may get answered, may or may not get answered in the hours to come.

Sara, thank you for that, on the ground for you there in Libya.

Well, this story, of course, far from over. In the next hour, I'm going to be joined by one man who ought to know what's going on behind the scenes in Libya. Saad Djebbar is a former legal adviser to the Libyan government. He knows the situation on the ground there better than most.

Well, as Libyans cheer, we'll look to the future, to the challenges facing the National Transitional Council as it attempts to bring the country together. But before they can, Libya's rebels have a fight on their hands to finally rid their country of their dictator.

So what stumbling blocks could they face and how can NATO help?

That coming up in the next hour here on CNN.

Plus, an exclusive interview with the man who helped to govern Libya before Gadhafi took charge some 41-and-a-half years ago. Find out what former Libyan Prime Minister Mustapha Ben Halim has to say about the colonel and what he believes comes next.

Well, many world leaders are encouraging Moammar Gadhafi to see the writing on the wall and give himself up without further bloodshed.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke a short time ago.

This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to emphasize that this is not over yet. As the regime collapses, there's still fierce fighting in some areas and we have reports of regime elements threatening to continue fighting. Although it's clear that Gadhafi's reign is over, he still has the opportunity to reduce further bloodshed by explicitly relinquish power to the people of Libya and calling for those forces that continue to fight to lay down their arms for the sake of Libya.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Hmm, for the sake of Libya, as far as Obama is concerned.

Well, the Pentagon says it believes Moammar Gadhafi is still in Libya.

What evidence does it have for that?

Well, let's get to the Pentagon and to our correspondent there, Chris Lawrence, for more on the U.S. intelligence at this point -- what do we know?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, it -- it's more a process of elimination. What they haven't seen is evidence that Moammar Gadhafi has left the country. They know he hasn't been seen in public in some time. They noted his last address was a radio address. But they're not getting into specific intelligence that leads them to say today that they believe that Moammar Gadhafi still resides in Libya.

ANDERSON: Thank you for that.

Chris Lawrence is at the Pentagon.

Chris, I'm going to leave it there for the time being.

I'm going to get to a man who's with me in the studio now.

The opposition National Transition Council is already planning for post-Gadhafi Libya, saying it will soon move its headquarters to Tripoli. Officially established March the 5th in Benghazi, the Council is led by Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Libya's former justice minister.

The NTC, now recognized by more than 30 countries as Libya's legitimate governing authority. And the Council says its aim is to steer Libya for an interim period toward free elections and the establishment of a constitution.

Well, a film adviser to the Libyan government agrees with the opposition that Moammar Gadhafi's reign is now over.

Saad Djebbar now joins us in the studio with some perspective.

And you say it's over. The Americans say, well, their evidence is -- is -- it's difficult to know who is where and what's going on at this point.

But you certainly say that Gadhafi is finished, but is he still at large?

That is the big question.

SAAD DJEBBAR, FORMER LEGAL ADVISER TO LIBYAN GOVERNMENT: Well, he's a fox, you know. He's a survivor, a manipulator. He's not like his sons. I'm sure if he's in the country, he would have been near the border with chad, Niger or Mali, or in his own tribal scene in Sirte. He would not be in Tripoli, whereby he could be caught easily.

ANDERSON: So you're saying -- you say he'll flee rather than fight on?

DJEBBAR: I think he will try to manipulate, try to enhance his negotiating presentation to the bitter end. And I must say that this is a time for the Russians, the Chinese and the Algerians, a neighboring country who have been supporting him indirectly and helping his position or his intransigence for some -- for the last few months, to move on to try to find a way out for him.

And that, if it's met with the, you know, the help of the United States and others, maybe they will get him to leave with some sort of deal.

But Gadhafi is very well known when he's losing. He likes to portray himself as winning. He did that in (INAUDIBLE). He did it in (INAUDIBLE) the last many 30 years or so.

ANDERSON: But, Saad, though, do you think he still has leverage with the rebels, with the National Transitional Council, so far as a safe passage might be concerned?

Has he got any negotiating power left at this point?

DJEBBAR: Let's look at Libya's history and present. Libya became independent thanks to the international efforts of the U.N. Now, Libya or the rebels are -- they are what they are because of the international effort. So however it seems that it's between -- in issues, between Libyans, the international community, headed by the United States, the U.K., France and other major powers, are going to have their own theory (ph).

And I think they will decide the future of how to set with Gadhafi. Gadhafi will go if he knows that he will leave with some sort of dignity and immunity.

ANDERSON: Saad, though, in the last couple of months, the international community has moved from saying -- I'm talking about Cameron, I'm talking about Obama here -- moved from saying he has to leave the country to just saying he must step down. And even in the last 24 hours, British Prime Minister David Cameron says it's up to the Libyans and the Libyan people as to what happens next.

DJEBBAR: Well, his saying that is normal, because he doesn't want to be seen as a colonialist dictating how the Libyan course of results should take. But at the end of the day, Gadhafi has -- Gadhafi's chapter has to be closed. If we close -- if we want to close Gadhafi's charter, the fact about the charter is this. Gadhafi could lose. But he has distributed arms, explosives, money to his own loyalists. Even if they were thousands or hundreds, they could create problems like in the IRA in -- in Northern Ireland.

Therefore, it's better to get him, to say agree on this. You leave the country. You will get immunity and that's it.

ANDERSON: You're going to stay with me throughout the hour.

We're going to discuss just how long this is going to take, if, indeed, this is the end of the regime and what happens next as we move through this next hour.

It's 12 minutes past 9:00 in London. That is 12 minutes past 10 in Tripoli.

We want to take a very short break.

Special coverage of what is going on in Libya here on CNN after this short break.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, you're back with CNN.

Two big breaking news stories this hour -- the battle for Tripoli, of course, and the other one that we are following for you.

Former International Monetary Fund chairman, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, will no longer face sexual assault charges in New York. His accuser's attorney announced that after a meeting at the district attorney's office earlier today. Strauss-Kahn was indicted in May, you'll remember, after a hotel maid alleged that he sexually assaulted her. He pleaded not guilty.

Well, the accuser has filed a civil lawsuit against Strauss-Kahn and he has filed a counter suit for slander.

Well, Susan Candiotti is at CNN New York and joins us now with more -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Becky.

You know, it's kind of interesting, because you would have thought, perhaps, that the district attorney here in Manhattan would have been the one to make the announcement that charges will be dismissed against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. That's what he will ask a judge to do in court on Tuesday.

But, in fact, the announcement came from the civil attorney representing the hotel maid who was the accuser in this case. Her name, of course, is Nafissatou Diallo. And she actually had a meeting that lasted less than a half an hour. And the news came as no surprise the her, but it is not the news that she wanted to hear.

She and her lawyer learned from prosecutors that, in fact, their plan was to ask a judge to drop the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. That - - that meeting took less than a half an hour. And the lawyer that you see there, Kenneth Thompson, really struck out against the district attorney, slamming him for saying that he is not upholding the rights of women all around the world who are raped by deciding not to go forward with this case.

So he chastised them for that.

We've had no comment as yet from the district attorney about this.

However, we have never heard a written statement -- we've received a written statement from the lawyers representing Strauss-Kahn. And his two lawyers are telling us this, quote: "We have maintained from the beginning of this case that our client is innocent. We also maintained that thee were many reasons to believe that Mr. Strauss-Kahn's accuser was not credible. Mr. Strauss-Kahn and his family are grateful that the district attorney's office took our concerns seriously and concluded its on its own that this case cannot proceed further. We look forward to attending the hearing on Tuesday."

This, of course, does not mean that the troubles for Mr. Strauss-Kahn are over, because, of course, Becky, he still has those civil lawsuits to be -- to deal with.

Now, there is another thing to be told here, and that is what do people think about the way that the civil attorney so far has been handling this case?

There is a defense attorney in town who assessed it this way. Having said that he was trying to do his best for his client, but obviously his best was not good enough.

Listen.

ANDERSON: All right. We don't seem to have that sound, of course.

The civil case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn does still continue.

Let's have a listen to that sound.

Hold on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNETH THOMPSON, ATTORNEY: The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, has denied the right of a woman to get justice in a rape case. He has not only turned his back on this innocent victim, but has turned his back on the forensic, the medical and other physical evidence in this case.

Now, I mean if the Manhattan district attorney, who is elected to protect our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our wives and our loved ones, is not going to stand up for them when they are raped or sexually assaulted, who will?

Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: So that was Kenneth Thompson. He is the civil attorney who is representing Miss. Diallo. You saw her standing there. She had nothing to say.

Now, she's obviously very disappointed, according to her lawyer, about what has happened, because she has insisted throughout that she wanted a chance to tell her story about what she says happened in that hotel room before a jury. Now, it appears so we now have that chance, at least not in a criminal court of law.

However, you know, Becky, I might add this. In a last minute motion that was filed by her lawyer this afternoon in court, she is asking the judge in this case to remove Mr. Vance, the district attorney, from this case and asks that a special prosecutor be put in his place. And they also asked for a stay to prevent the hearing from happening tomorrow while he considers this motion. But we haven't heard one way or the other how that motion will be handled.

ANDERSON: Susan Candiotti on the case for you.

And CNN, of course, will keep you bang up to date on exactly what is happening there in New York.

Well, one of two breaking news stories this hour. The battle for Tripoli, of course, continues. It's a fluid picture in Libya.

Let's step back and get you the latest on what we believe things stand in the capital.

We know rebel fighters were on the move, streaming into the heart of Tripoli to take on Moammar Gadhafi's remaining loyalists. Well, this video taken by a CNN crew on the ground earlier in Tripoli. You heard gunfire there and shouting as fighters scrambled into the city's Green, or Martyrs Square, as it's now known, taking cover from snipers on the rooftops.

Well, fighting a civil war in Libya, rebels have been fighting diplomatic battles, as well, outside the country. Take a look at this map. You can see Libya in green. Now in red, these are the countries that formally recognize what is known as the National Transitional Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. It includes, as you can see there, the United States, Canada, much of Europe, Japan and Australia, also a scattering of Middle Eastern and Arab countries -- Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar.

In blue, these countries are not quite there, not yet, anyway. Some, like Ireland and Switzerland, have given informal recognition. Others, such as Russia and China, up to this point, at least, see the NTC more as a negotiating party.

Well, for more on the NTC and what sort of role it could play in a post-Gadhafi Libya, let's first take a look at its chairman, Mustafa Abdel Jalil served as Libya's justice minister from 2007 until he resigned in February after he witnessed the regime using violence against protesters in Benghazi, he made his decision. The 58 -year-old Jalil is from the eastern coastal city of Bayda. He's a former lawyer and judge with a reputation for fairness.

Well, let's bring back our guest in the studio this evening, a man who knows, well, more about Libya than most of us will ever know.

Saad Djebbar is the former legal adviser to Colonel Gadhafi's government.

These -- or this is the man who runs the NTC at the moment. We're talking about Jalil here.

What do we know about the NTC?

Is this -- is this an organization that can effectively from, say, tomorrow, get to grips with running this country?

DJEBBAR: You are acting in a very modest manner. He sprung up out of the uprising in Benghazi. And they were really using a very rational and reasonable discourse. He was saying we are not uprising for Benghazi, the eastern part. You know, we don't want to fall into the trap of Gadhafi showing that part of, you know, the east against the west, you are saying. We are here representing or talking about the grievances of the whole country.

And he maintained and kept stressing that our capital is Tripoli. We are one Libya. We are one tribe and one people.

ANDERSON: Just how much communication is there, though, because the NTC and the rebels?

DJEBBAR: The -- sorry?

ANDERSON: And the rebels who are on the road, moving into Tripoli?

DJEBBAR: No, listen, Libyan society is a very small population. People are unfairly likening them to Taliban or to Afghanistan or -- or to Iran or to other Islam. The Libyan society is a very simple society to the point of complexity. And they are interrelated by region, by marriage, by tribe. And they are really a very, very peaceful people. And everybody knows everybody.

Therefore, to think that, you know, there are Islamists (INAUDIBLE) saying Allahu Akbar, even if a society is an Islamic country, mostly it's (INAUDIBLE) mostly. We are not what you may think about the al Qaeda or whatever. We have nothing to do with extremists.

They wanted to create a country which is a normal country, which Libya hasn't been for the last 40 years.

ANDERSON: The NTC spokesman in London says that: "We have a clear plan, a clear road map."

He talks about 18 to -- to 20 months, effectively, to set up a functioning government. Implementing this transition, though, will be extremely tough. And when I talk about this, this is obviously phase two. Phase one is the ousting of Gadhafi, who, it seems, at least, could still be in Libya at this point?

DJEBBAR: Yes. Gadhafi created a vacuum. When people talk about the fear of vacuum, Gadhafi created a vacuum for 40 years except that the only -- the vacuum was filled with terror, with the (INAUDIBLE) as the police state with oppression.

Now, they have been very, very realistic, because in creating transitions or dealing with transitions, it takes longer. Look at Egypt. Look at Tunisia.

The Libyan society is less complex than Tunisia or Egypt. They were realistic. They were talking about creating some sort of leadership as a figurehead for what they did through Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who is a very nice man. He's not -- he has no political ambitions, maybe in the Anglo- Saxon (INAUDIBLE), you don't believe in it. But he is like that.

And we are talking about a caretaker government. Then you create -- you allow for a constitution and electoral vote to be drafted. This is very normal. Look at Egypt and look at Tunisia.

But Libya is now the model because in Egypt and Tunisia, the regime faced the Arab spring peacefully and the left (ph) are the lost.

In Libya -- in Libya, the people -- the regime refused to Arab Spring, therefore, the end -- the end of the regime and the in summer, our own Arab Spring -- not -- Arab Summer. A very hot one. And he's resisting. Therefore, the people, despite the means they have less weapons than the regime, but they are going to they have defeated the regime morally, psychologically and I think politically they have already defeated the regime and they should be allowed time to move forward.

The Arab Spring or Arab Summer has one characteristic, not one single faction, not one single organization, not one single party will claim monopoly for the power. So, therefore, it has the be a coalition and consensus politics, in Tunisia, in Egypt and in Libya.

ANDERSON: Saad, stay with me.

You're with me for the next hour.

We're going to take a very short break.

Coming up, rebel forces have stormed into Tripoli, but they don't yet have control of the entire city.

What will it take for them to win the battle?

That's a minute away.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: The dramatic scenes we are witnessing in Libya, Tripoli, are testament to the courage and determination of the Libyan people to seek a free and democratic future. It is crucial now for the conflict to end with no further loss of life and retribution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaking earlier this Monday.

Reaction has been pouring in from around the world.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron called on Colonel Gadhafi to step down to avoid further bloodshed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID CAMERON, BRITAIN PRIME MINISTER: This has not been our revolution, but we can be proud that we have played our part. There will undoubtedly be difficult days ahead. No transition is ever smooth or easy. But today, the Arab Spring is a step further away from oppression and dictatorship and a step closer to freedom and democracy. And the Libyan people are closer to their dream of a better future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, the head of Libya's National Transitional Council is expected to travel to Paris in the coming days to meet with the French president and the foreign minister, Alain Juppe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAIN JUPPE, FRENCH MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): It is obviously, for us, a matter of great satisfaction. You know how much we are involved in this operation to help the Libyan people rid themselves of a dictatorship. France took risks, like it did with the Ivory Coast. These were calculated risks and the cause was just.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: The battle for Tripoli continues.

Reacting to unfolding events, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez blasted NATO and the United States. In a speech to supporters on Sunday, he said they are practically demolishing Tripoli with their bombs.

This is what he actually said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I mean they show violence, generate death and destruction so that with the excuse of seeking peace, evoking the interests of the country they invade and conquer. And that's exactly what they're doing in Libya -- producing a massacre there. They are bombarding to save lives.

Can you believe the nerve, the cynicism?

But that's the excuse they used to invade and take over a country and its riches. Tell me about it. By the will of God, we, Venezuela, have the world's greatest oil reserves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Hugo Chavez speaking late on Sunday.

You're back with CNN, the world's news leader.

And our coverage of the uprising in Libya continues. We'll have an update on that and your headlines after this.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: The battle for Tripoli continues. Reacting to unfolding events, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez blasted NATO and the United States. In speech to supporters on Sunday, he said they are practically demolishing Tripoli with their bombs. This is what he actually said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUGO CHAVEZ, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): I mean, they show violence, generate death and destruction so that, with the excuse of seeking peace, evoking the interest of the country, they invade and conquer.

And that's exactly what they're doing in Libya, producing a massacre there. They are bombarding to save lives. Can you believe the nerve? The cynicism? But that's the excuse they use to invade and take over a country and its riches.

Tell me about it. By the will of God, we, Venezuela, have the world's greatest oil reserves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Hugo Chavez speaking late on Sunday. You're back with CNN, the world's news leader, and our coverage of the uprising in Libya continues. We'll have an update on that and your headlines after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're back with CNN, the world's news leader at just after half past nine in London and our coverage of the uprising in Libya continues. We're going to have an update on that in just a moment. First, the other headlines this hour.

And New York prosecutors are planning to drop sexual assault charges against the former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. That is, at least, according to the lawyer for his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo. Now, the attorney says that they were informed of the decision a short time ago at a meeting in New York. They still plan to pursue a civil suit against Strauss-Kahn.

Amid reports of ongoing violence against protesters in Syria, a UN council met Monday to discuss alleged human rights violations. President Bashar al-Assad is rejecting calls for his resignation and is promising political reforms.

On Wall Street, stocks closed Monday higher, but not after a day of choppy trading worrying investors. The Dow Jones closing up in the end about 36 points, and the NASDAQ and S&P also posting slight gains on the day.

Well, no one has ever made money betting against America. That was the upbeat theme of US vice president Joe Biden's just-completed visit to China. Beijing is the largest foreign holder of US debt, and it was Biden's mission to ease China's fears.

And wind and heavy rain from Hurricane Irene pelts Puerto Rico. Now the storm is taking aim at the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Irene is forecast to strengthen and hit the US, perhaps Florida or Georgia, by the weekend.

In Libya, a fully-fledged battle is underway for small sections of Tripoli still under Moammar Gadhafi's control. The fighting raging across the street from the Rixos Hotel where many journalists, you'll know, have been holed up.

In other parts of the capital, rebels and their supporters are pouring in, cheering what they see as Gadhafi's imminent fall.

Meanwhile, the Libyan leader's location isn't certain. The US says there is no indication, though, that he has left the country, and pro- government forces are still fighting fiercely to defend his compound.

Well, NATO is worried that Gadhafi's forces may try to stage a last- ditch attack against civilians. Let's get the very latest on the ground, now, from Matthew Chance, who is in Tripoli. What are you hearing at this point, at this hour, on Monday evening in Tripoli, Matthew?

(SILENCE)

ANDERSON: Well, Matthew Chance is in Tripoli for you, he's our Senior International Correspondent. It's difficult as far as communications are concerned for us with our correspondents. We're doing our best. Let's see if we can get him up once again. Matthew Chance, can you hear me?

Don't think we have him. Let's move on and we'll see whether we can get Matthew up as soon as possible.

Well, just a short time ago, I sat down with the man who helped govern and guide Libya before Colonel Gadhafi.

In a rare interview with CNN, Mustapha Ben Halim shared his thoughts with me about what has unfolded in the last few days and, indeed, some 40- plus years, and I started by asking the former prime minister whether he believes Gadhafi ever cared about the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MUSTAPHA BEN HALIM, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF LIBYA: There is only way Gadhafi wants to achieve, to have Libya belonging to him. Not only he got -- grabbed everything, but there is no controlling him, no responsibility, nothing. He does what he likes.

ANDERSON: Do you think he'll ever give himself in -- up to the rebels, or will he try to escape Libya, do you think?

BEN HALIM: He will not admit defeat. He, I think -- he might go outside Libya and sort of say that he's going to continue spite, but I doubt this guy will get reason, get real thinking and that the circus is finished.

ANDERSON: What do you see as the future for Libya?

BEN HALIM: I think we will have good future, provided we realize that our problems begin the day he goes. Not the end. We have a lot of fighters, we have the new generation. We have many things to take into consideration which were not available --

See, when the first independence was declared, I was part of it, because -- but there was two leaders then.

At that time, we had -- I had no money, we had no money -- no manpower. But we had a good leadership.

ANDERSON: Who do you think is fit to run the country going forward?

BEN HALIM: Now, if the new people -- and I know some of them, and they are excellent people. But they have to try to start making a real government, a government which guarantees freedom, which is based on a good foundation.

I'm -- in English I talk this way. You see, you have to build on a good, good basement, which is Parliament, the voice of the people.

And also to realize that we have about 20 -- 20 or 15 at least -- 20,000 martyrs. It's 20,000 have left orphans, have left families. They have to take care of these people immediately.

Also, they have to take care of these people who -- they call them revolutionaries, they're people who fought the -- with bare hands, you see? And try to form a sort of a government which is everyone is contributing in it and take care that there is a new generation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: That's, of course, Libya's former prime minister speaking to me just an hour or so ago.

What does it take to gain control of a city. We're going to look at the streets of Tripoli with a military expert for you. Just how long could the rebels' fight for the capital take? What happens next? That after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, SECRETARY GENERAL, NATO: The Libyan people have suffered tremendously under Gadhafi's rule for over four decades. Now, they have a chance for a new beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: That new beginning may become reality sooner than anyone expected after rebel forces surged into Tripoli over the weekend with what was quite shocking speed. Let's take a look at how we reported how it all unfolded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TEXT: Zawiya, Saturday, August 20, 48 km from Tripoli

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're now about 30 miles outside of Tripoli, so we are very, very, very close. Last night, the rebels were telling us that they got help from NATO, and that is one of the ways that they were able to secure this refinery.

TEXT: Al-Nayah, Sunday, August 21, 29 km from Tripoli

SIDNER: There are rebels inside the city of Tripoli. They are beginning the uprising there. Now, these are rebels that were already placed inside the city, just waiting and watching for their time to begin wreaking havoc on that city and trying to get Gadhafi forces out of that city, but we are now just a few kilometers away from the capital.

FATHI BAJA, LIBYAN NATIONAL TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL (through translator): That a lot of Gadhafi troops are withdrawing and giving up their weapons outside Tripoli, but inside the capital, as well. It's going easily. It's easy.

TEXT: Western Road, Sunday, August 21, 27 km from Tripoli

(GUNFIRE)

(SHOUTING)

(CAR HORNS HONKING)

SAIF GADHAFI, MOAMMAR GADHAFI'S SON (through translator): This chatter of surrender and raising of the white flag, we will not talk about. It is rejected completely, and it is not because of Moammar or Gadhafi or Saif al-Islam. This is rejected by the people of Libya.

TEXT: Tripoli, Sunday, August 21, 7 km from Green Square

(GUNFIRE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Difficult to give an exact -- you know, kind of a scale of how much territory is still in the hands of Colonel Gadhafi, but clearly, his forces are on the back foot at the moment. And it all seems to be crumbling rather quickly.

TEXT: Green Square, Monday, August 22

SIDNER: We are in Green Square, here in the middle of Tripoli. What we're seeing is rebels all over the square. There are really no civilians, mostly men with guns in the square. But we're also seeing people running. There's a lot of gunfire, they say there are snipers. We all had to pull back.

(EXPLOSION)

SIDNER: The situation very tense here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gadhafi's finished! Now, leave please!

(CROWDS CHEERING)

(CAR HORNS HONKING)

(GUNFIRE)

RESIDENT OF TRIPOLI (via telephone): Today, people are going out, people are talking on the phone. We couldn't even talk on the phone before. Most of us had our phones closed because we were scared, but there's no more tears. No more. Gadhafi is gone, we don't want him anymore. He lost. We are game over.

(CROWD SHOUTING)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, that is how we've been reporting what has been going on in Tripoli, Libya, over the past day or so.

The battle not over, of course. Forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi are still fighting in some pockets of the capital, and the Libyan leader himself is nowhere to be found.

So what is going on to take -- what's it going to take for the rebels to gain control of the city? Well, joining me now to discuss that is Dan Plesch. He's a military expert and director of the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy here in London.

Dan, let's just bring up some of the information here for our viewers. We get a sense of just where things are. Green Square, of course, is here. I'm not sure if this is going to work for me or not tonight. Let's have another go and see.

Let's bring it up. Green Square --

DAN PLESCH, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES AND DIPLOMACY: Yes.

ANDERSON: This, of course, Tripoli. This a compound, and this the Rixos Hotel that we've seen our reporters --

PLESCH: Yes.

ANDERSON: -- in for some time. Move this on, just -- and I want you to give us a sense of what these rebels have achieved over the past 48 hours.

PLESCH: Well, this has been an incredible, dramatic couple of days. Now, you see rebels in the central square, here. But they have come in over 30 or so miles in the course of -- really, the last day or so, when for months the line hasn't been moving at all.

And this has been, coincidentally or not, in line with uprisings in the center of the city, in the residential districts. They were -- where the working people of Libya live.

And this uprising combined with the defection of the key garrison unit of the Gadhafi forces in Tripoli, their defection, their surrender to the rebels produced this rapid rush into the center from the rebels coming in from the west and, indeed, from the south and east, if we can make this little gizmo of yours work.

ANDERSON: Yes.

PLESCH: There we are.

ANDERSON: How's NATO been involved in all of this?

PLESCH: Well, of course, part of this is a closely-guarded secret, the precise relationship between NATO, American intelligence, British, French, and Qatari forces with the rebels, but all the western reporting out of America is that this relationship has been very, very close.

And effectively, while some countries like Germany don't want it to happen, these countries have really been acting as the intelligence arm and the airstrike power of the rebels, not just protecting the civilians.

ANDERSON: Are we seeing -- well, I guess the question is this. Are we seeing mission creep at this point, and how do things change if we are for NATO now that we are in this urban environment.

PLESCH: Well, I think it isn't so much mission creep, there were mission strides some months ago, certainly by the French. Now, I think, if they have any sense, one will see that NATO will have to take a back seat militarily.

Intelligence will still be coming in, I'm sure, to the local commanders, but this is a Libya operation, critically because of all this concern about tribal issues that we hear discussed, that this has been very much a revolution of the west, of Tripolitanians, not just of the Cyrenaicans from Benghazi coming to town.

This has been an indigenous, western revolution, and that's critical to the unity of the -- the future of Libya.

ANDERSON: Let's move this on, because I just want to take a look at where Gadhafi's compound is. US intelligence at least at this point believing he is still in the country. No sight nor --

PLESCH: So they say, yes.

ANDERSON: So they say. No sight nor sound over the past 24 hours --

PLESCH: Yes.

ANDERSON: Although we did have two audio messages from him, one of which, at least, on Sunday suggesting that he was still in Tripoli.

PLESCH: Yes.

ANDERSON: This, of course, is his compound here. What will the rebels-slash-NATO need to do to engage with those who are here at this point?

PLEASCH: Well, there's a question as to whether -- how much there is in this central compound still. After all, NATO has been bombing it consistently for months.

It certainly wouldn't make sense for Colonel Gadhafi to pick up a telephone or make any kind of broadcast from that location, because it would have been immediately attractive to the rebels if not to NATO air power.

Now, we've seen in other situations, in African countries where the French have been closely involved, it's taken a long period of negotiation after a compound has been surrounded to get the leader out, if that's the desired outcome.

So, one could see that sort of standoff unfolding. There's also the potential that Colonel Gadhafi may yet go to ground as a guerrilla leader, some kind of Che Guevara-type figure.

At this point, it's very difficult to do more than speculate and think about historical examples, but frankly, the speed of the collapse, his increasing isolation, the apparent capture of his sons, the defection of key supporters and key military units means that he will be part of a dwindling group increasingly vulnerable, particularly the moment they pick up a telephone.

ANDERSON: Dan Plesch with you this evening --

PLESCH: Thank you, Becky.

ANDERSON: -- with some expert analysis. Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

As we've been saying, NATO is worried that Gadhafi's forces may try to stage a last-ditch attack against civilians. Let's get the very latest on the ground, now, from Matthew Chance who we tried earlier on. As I say, the communications aren't great to Tripoli, but I believe, now, that we do have Matthew on the line. Matthew, are you there?

CHANCE (via telephone): Yes, Becky, I'm here.

ANDERSON: And the latest from you?

CHANCE: Yes, no, absolutely. Well, we're in this Rixos Hotel, which is right in the center of Tripoli. We've been hearing such a lot of -- hearing several areas of the capital have been falling under the control of the rebels with little or no resistance.

But there are some pockets that still remain closely controlled by Gadhafi's loyalists, and we are right in the middle of one of them in this Rixos Hotel.

It's also an area which has Gadhafi's main compound. It's been heavily bombed in recent months, but there is fierce fighting underway throughout the course of the day.

There's actually been a lull in the fighting over the past couple of hours, but throughout the course of the rest of the day right until this evening, there's been fierce clashes between rebels and government loyalists with heavy machine gun fire, with rocket-propelled grenades exploding, other heavy weapons, as well.

Really ferocious. Some of the bullets actually -- in the crossfire coming into the hotel itself. And so, all the journalists here have kind of corralled themselves in the darkness because there's no power in the hotel anymore. The generators have run out of fuel.

We're kind of running out of food and water, but all the journalists have corralled themselves in the middle of the hotel and are sort of sitting in the dark, trying to get through this, trying to make -- make out -- make some sense of what's going on outside the perimeter of the hotel, Becky.

ANDERSON: Let me just get this straight. So, for our viewers who may have just missed what you just said. At this point, there are no longer any government minders, is that what you're saying? So, you're there at the hotel, it's journalists only, there's no generation, no food to speak of it. But you aren't any longer being corralled by government minders?

CHANCE: No, that's not quite right. There aren't any government minders as such, IE these government officials who were always with us and took us on trips and sort of stood over us whenever we interviewed people.

But what there are in the lobby of the hotel are gunmen loyal to Colonel Gadhafi. On the outskirts of the hotel along its perimeter, at its gates, there are green flags flying, pro-Gadhafi flags. There are large numbers of pro-Gadhafi military forces in the area, as well.

Because it seems that the Gadhafi loyalists, even though they've been prepared -- or have capitulated in many areas in Tripoli, in this area, which has a certain amount of symbolic value, it may be that Colonel Gadhafi is holed up in his compound as well, although there's no way of sort of verifying that.

But whatever the reason, the Gadhafi loyalists seem to have taken the decision that they're going to hold this area where the Gadhafi compound is located and where this Rixos hotel is located.

So we're still inside. We're not permitted to go outside. There are still pro-Gadhafi gunmen in the lobby, on the outskirts of the hotel, preventing us from doing that, Becky.

ANDERSON: Matthew Chance right in the center of things in Tripoli in Libya. Matthew, thank you for that.

We'll take a very short break. You've been watching our special coverage of the battle for Tripoli here on CNN. We're coming back with a couple of other stories after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're watching CNN, I'm Becky Anderson in London. It's about 53 minutes past 9:00. News just coming into us here at CNN Center that Sir Richard Branson's home in the Caribbean has caught fire after being hit by Hurricane Irene. He joins us now on the phone from Necker Island. Richard, what happened?

RICHARD BRANSON, CHAIRMAN, VIRGIN GROUP (via telephone): Well, there was a hurricane coming through. The winds are about 90 miles an hour. At about 4:00 in the morning, a massive lightning strike hit the main house and the house burst on fire.

Fortunately, people woke up and we managed to get everybody out. Because the winds are so strong, just under 100 miles an hour, the house went up very quickly. But everybody's well, and we live to fight another day.

ANDERSON: Yes, Richard, as you speak, we're looking at pictures here, really disturbing pictures. How many of you were in the house at the time?

BRANSON: There were 20 people -- and I -- we were actually in an outhouse, and my son ran into our room, woke us up, we looked over to the house, and it was just one big ball of flame with -- you know when you --

Holly, my daughter was there, my mother was there, friends were there, nephews and nieces. And I just ran stark naked to the house to try to make sure we got everybody out and, fortunately, everybody --

(AUDIO GAP)

ANDERSON: Reports that Kate Winslet was staying with you. Can you confirm that?

(SILENCE)

ANDERSON: I think that -- Richard, are you still with us?

(SILENCE)

ANDERSON: Richard Branson. Sadly, we seem to have lost communication with him. Thankfully, able to tell us that although the pictures that you are seeing is his house on Necker Island in the Caribbean, which was hit by lighting during Hurricane Irene, although you see it in flames, thankfully the 20 or so people that Richard had staying with him at the time are all safe.

Disturbing pictures, though. Richard, I'm sorry, we lost you, there - -

BRANSON: No problem.

ANDERSON: -- for a moment. Reports that Kate Winslet, the actress, was staying with you. Will you confirm that for us?

BRANSON: She was staying there with her children, and she -- my son woke her up and she got out just in time. She actually picked up my mother, who's 90 --

(AUDIO GAP)

BRANSON: -- and managed to carry her out of the house. But anyway, she's fine. She said it was like being in a movie, very surreal, very unreal. She's waiting for the director to shout "Cut!" but it never happened. But --

ANDERSON: Yes.

BRANSON: -- anyway, she's fine and -- fine and well.

ANDERSON: Well, that's good to hear. Richard, on a very small island like this, what sort of emergency services are there?

BRANSON: There aren't any, basically. We had to cope with that ourselves, and we had a swimming pool where we -- where we managed to pump quite a lot of water on, but when you've got 90-mile-an-hour winds, the fire -- there's just nothing you can do about it. You just have to stand back and let the fire take everything.

And so, we will now set about rebuilding the house and make sure it's even more beautiful than it was before and -- we've got family and friends all well, which is all that really matters.

ANDERSON: Absolutely. Richard Branson. It's good to hear you're safe. We're sorry for your loss. We'll speak to you again. Richard Branson.

BRANSON: Thanks very much.

ANDERSON: All right. A lot of --

BRANSON: Thank you.

ANDERSON: A lot of news happening for you this hour. Let's get you back to Libya. A fully-fledged battle underway for small sections of Tripoli still under Moammar Gadhafi's control.

The fighting raging across the street from the Rixos Hotel where, of course, many of the international journalists are still holed up. They've been holed up there for months as they go in and out.

In the other parts of the capital, rebels and their supporters pouring in, cheering what they see as Gadhafi's imminent fall.

Meanwhile, the Libyan leader's location isn't certain. The US says there is no indication that he has left he country. And pro-government forces are still fighting fiercely to defend his compound.

You're watching CNN, the world's news leader. I'm Becky Anderson. Our special coverage of the battle for Tripoli continues in just moments with Wolf Blitzer, my colleague. Stay with CNN. We'll leave you with some of the powerful images that we've seen as a country verges on a new era. Good night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SHOUTING)

(GUNFIRE)

(CARS HONKING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

END