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Battle for Tripoli; Beginning of New Libya?; Oil: The Libya Effect
Aired August 22, 2011 - 08:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: From Misrata to Tripoli, Benghazi to al Brega, Libyans are celebrating as rebels claim control of most of their capital. Three of Moammar Gadhafi's sons are said to be under arrest, but there is no sign of the leader himself.
It's 2:00 p.m. in Tripoli, 8:00 p.m. here in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM, CNN's continuing coverage of the battle for Libya.
Now, we could be watching history in the making. Rebel forces have advanced into the Libyan capital and are battling government forces on the doorstep of Colonel Gadhafi. And in doing so, they could be close to ending the Libyan leader's 42-year grip on power.
After months of war, these were the scenes in Tripoli. Crowds filled this central square to celebrate what they see as the coming downfall of the Gadhafi regime.
And it wasn't just in Tripoli where Libyans were in the mood to party. This was the scene in Misrata in the early hours of Monday after rebels made swift gains, pushing right into the heart of Tripoli.
It's not over though. The rebels say they are encountering pockets of heavy resistance.
Now, it's claimed that the great majority of Tripoli is under rebel control, and there are celebration's in the city's Green Square. But one fact remains. Colonel Gadhafi's whereabouts are still unknown.
We do know that there has been sporadic gunfire, as well as explosions, near the leader's Bab Al-Aziziya compound in southern Tripoli. According to Reuters, a few hours ago tanks left the compound to shell another area of the capital. And, over the weekend, as rebels prepared to launch a final assault on Tripoli's airport, a plane was seen leaving. But it is not known who was on board.
Moammar Gadhafi might be off the radar, but it appears his sons are in the crosshairs. Rebel leaders say they have captured three of the embattled leader's seven remaining sons. And earlier, one of those now in custody appeared to speak on Al Jazeera in an exclusive telephone interview.
Now, the anchor said that in an exchange of gunfire between rebels and Mohammed Gadhafi's guards, one of the guards was injured and a rebel fighter killed. The anchor added that the rebels had surrounded Mohammed Gadhafi's home and planned to take him to Benghazi.
Take a listen to what Colonel Gadhafi's son said.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MOHAMMED GADHAFI, MOAMMAR GADHAFI'S SON (through translator): I'm standing outside my house. I'm being attacked right now. There's gunfire inside my house. They're inside my house.
Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STOUT: The Al Jazeera anchor then reported that, according to the chairman of the Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Mohammed Gadhafi and his family "have not been harmed, but their movements are under the control of rebel forces.
Now, CNN has been reporting from inside Libya since the uprising began. Our Matthew Chance is at a hotel in Tripoli, where international journalists are taking cover from the ongoing fighting. And he joins us now.
Matthew, from your position, what can you see and hear of the fighting in the capital?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, because we've seen all those images of the rebels advancing, the vigil of no resistance of Gadhafi loyalists into Tripoli, and being greeted by crowds celebrating their arrival. But, of course, that's not what we're seeing in the area immediately around this hotel. It's an area where the government forces of Colonel Gadhafi appear to have dug in and be staking out a defense of this small pocket of Tripoli, a few pockets of the capital, as far as we understand it.
This is one of them, and every few minutes there's burst of heavy machine gunfire, occasional explosions as well, as the government troops that are in some numbers, we understand, around the perimeter of the hotel, around the compound of Colonel Gadhafi -- which is just a short distance away behind me -- have again been staking out their defensive positions. They seem determined at this point to hold on to this part of Tripoli, although I have to say, Kristie, there haven't been any of the big battles promised by Gadhafi loyalists, rebels, to come into Tripoli.
Remember, a Colonel Gadhafi official said that there would be tens of thousands of soldiers heavily armed, well trained, and prepared to defend this city down to the last moment. We haven't seen that. Again, we've seen those images of rebels coming in virtually unopposed. It's not clear yet whether that's some kind of tactic by the Gadhafi loyalists and they could be on the verge of posing some kind of counteroffensive.
At the moment, things relatively quiet in Tripoli, apart from those various pockets of clashes. We understand there were clashes near Green Square and there were clashes here again around the hotel, Rixos Hotel, in the Gadhafi compound.
STOUT: So, Matthew, there seems to be a conflicting picture of how much military might Gadhafi has left. As you mentioned, the rebels were able to sweep into the capital without any apparent resistance from government forces, and yet they were dealing with pockets of pro-Gadhafi forces resistance. For example, the site where you are right now.
So what is the true picture of how much military might Colonel Gadhafi has left?
CHANCE: Well, it's difficult for us to assess that, but government officials, just yesterday, announced that there was 65,000 troops ready to defend Tripoli. I suppose the question is, is what will the loyalty be of those troops and the volunteers, the armed volunteers that often fight alongside them in the past? What will their loyalty be now that the capital has essentially, for the most part, fallen, it seems, to the rebels? Again, with the exception of those various pockets, because if those 65,000 men and volunteers that the government said stood by them were to stage a counteroffensive, obviously it could be very nasty, very bloody, indeed.
At the moment, again, we haven't seen that counteroffensive. It seems that in many parts of Tripoli, the armed forces that perhaps Gadhafi had hoped would stand and resist and defend the city have simply melted away.
STOUT: A lot of questions about the loyalty of pro-Gadhafi forces, as well as the loyalty of government officials. And for weeks, Matthew, you have had to deal with government minders, the Libyan Information Ministry.
What has happened to them? Are they still talking and dealing with you, or is it your sense that the government has fallen apart?
CHANCE: Well, it's definitely on its back foot. It's definitely crumbling. I think it's indisputable that that's the case.
We haven't seen anything of the government officials since yesterday now. They've essentially abandoned this hotel. The government minders that were such a presence in the hotel -- we weren't allowed to do anything without being accompanied by them -- they've all gone, and we've just been left with some pro-Gadhafi gunmen in the lobby of the hotel. The perimeter of the hotel is surrounded by Gadhafi loyalists as well, some of whom are very heavily armed.
But yes, there is a big question mark over the loyalty of Gadhafi officials, over the loyalty of many of the people of Tripoli who, in the past, we've spoken to. We went out with a camera and a government minder, of course they said, "Oh, yes, we love Colonel Gadhafi. We love our leader. We'll fight these rats, these rebels who are attempting to tear our country to pieces."
But again, you know, we have seen these scenes in many parts of Tripoli of people, residents celebrating and welcoming the rebels as they entered into the city. And so there are big questions about just to what extent there was real popularity for Colonel Gadhafi, or whether that was just something that people said, because they knew if they said anything differently, they'd be in trouble -- Kristie.
STOUT: Matthew Chance, joining us live in Tripoli.
Thank you, Matthew.
As the rebels advance from the coastal city of Zawiya to the capital, our Sara Sidner was with them. Now, she's been talking to dozens of rebels gathered in what Colonel Gadhafi once called Green Square and what the rebels are now calling Martyrs Square. And take a look at what she found.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finish. Finish Gadhafi. Finish.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very, very happy. Gadhafi's finished. Gadhafi's finished. Now, leader-free dome (ph).
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are in Green Square, and what you're seeing behind me are just a few people left, but the rebels are now saying that there's going to be a massive battle here. They do not have full control of this city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the moment, we're not fully in control of Tripoli because -- you can see that.
SIDNER: What does this make you -- how do you feel about this day? You are from Tripoli. Why is this day important? Is this day an historic day?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an historic day because we had to leave from here without anything, and now we have to fight. I'm not a fighter, I'm a student, and it's my first time to, like, handle a gun.
SIDNER: The civilians are now gone from here, and now we also have to leave.
SIDNER: What's happening is everyone started fighting. We are here in the middle of Tripoli. What we are seeing is rebels all over this square. There are really no civilians, and 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.
The situation, very tense here, but there is a lot of celebrating going on. Some of this is just gunfire in the air, but people are very, very concerned, because they say there were snipers close to the top of some of these buildings. They're not sure exactly where some of this gunfire is coming from. Every now and then you see people just running, trying to get out of the way.
But right now the rebels have Green Square, and it is an historic moment here in Tripoli, in the capital. The real stronghold of Moammar Gadhafi has now been taken over by the rebels.
Sara Sidner, CNN, Tripoli.
STOUT: Incredible reporting there.
Do stay with us. We will get more on the latest developments in Libya from Sara Sidner a little later in the program.
Now, let's look back now on some of the key dates of the Libyan war.
Now, the start of the conflict can be traced back to February the 15th, when anti-government protests were held in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city. The demonstration spread, and on February the 20th, Moammar Gadhafi's son Saif went on Libyan state TV blaming the violence on foreign agents and warning that the unrest could lead to civil war.
Rebels formed a National Transitional Council, and on March 4th began their first assault. They were able to capture the oil-rich coastal city of Ras Lanuf. And two days later, on March the 6th, Gadhafi loyalists launched their counteroffensive with air strikes against the rebels.
Continued air strikes against the rebels led to the United Nations Security Council voting to impose a no-fly zone over Libya on March the 17th. And then NATO soon took over sole command of air operations over Libya, and on April the 30th, launched a missile strike against Moammar Gadhafi's compound. Gadhafi survived, but his youngest son was killed.
And perhaps the fiercest battle of the war ended on May the 15th. That's when pro-Gadhafi forces withdrew from Misrata, ending three months of intense fighting there.
The rebels' National Transitional Council was recognized by the United States as the legitimate government in Libya on July 15th. And rebels took the center of the strategic city of Zawiya on August the 14th, cutting of food and fuel supplies to Tripoli.
Coming up next, the whereabouts of Libya's leader are unknown, but when last heard, he struck a typically defiant tone.
And if there is to be regime change, what happens next politically?
The news continues on CNN.
STOUT: And with Libyan rebels knocking on Gadhafi's door, world leaders, with the exception of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, are calling on the longtime leader to step aside and draw an end to his 42 years of rule. Let's take a look at some of the reaction.
Now, the U.S. president, Barack Obama, he said the momentum against the Gadhafi regime has reached a tipping point. He says, "Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant. The Gadhafi regime is showing signs of collapsing. The people of Libya are showing that the universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fast of a dictator."
Now, Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, he called on Colonel Gadhafi to step down to avoid further bloodshed. He says, "The regime is falling apart and is in full retreat. Gadhafi must stop fighting, without conditions, and clearly show that he has given up any claim to control Libya."
And in France, President Nicolas Sarkozy, he's also issued a statement saying, "The president of the republic urges Colonel Gadhafi to avoid inflicting new futile sufferings on his people and abandoning what is left of his power and in immediately calling on his forces, who are still loyal to him, to a cease-fire, to drop their weapons and to go back to their barracks.
But it wasn't all condemnation for the leader. The longtime ally of his Hug Chavez, the president of Venezuela, he says, "Democratic European governments are practically demolishing Tripoli with their bombs and the supposedly Democratic government of the United States because they feel like it."
Now, clearly, Libya has entered a new era, but one of the biggest questions is, who governs now? The Libyan rebel government says it is ready to move to Tripoli as soon as possible. As the Transitional National Council has struggled for legitimacy since it was formed earlier this year, the TNC's ambassador talked to our Manisha Tank and declared that it is ready to take over running the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI, LIBYAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: The TNC is ready to run the country. They will move to Tripoli as soon as possible, and they are preparing. I think everything is ready for the election of the temporary council. And of course they have to take care of the security of the city, and of course there is our concern now is where is Gadhafi? We have to find out, where is he?
And I believe very much in what the TNC is doing. I think the takeover of Tripoli today, it is amazing, but expected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: So, are we really looking at the end of Colonel Gadhafi's 42-year reign and the beginning of a new Libya?
Now, Hisham Melhem is the Washington bureau chief for Al-Arabiya Television. He joins us now from CNN Washington.
Welcome to CNN International.
And before we talk about transition, let's talk about the status quo. Just how much support does Colonel Gadhafi have yet? And how long will he be able to hold onto power?
HISHAM MELHEM, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, AL-ARABIYA TELEVISION: I think we can safely say that Libya's long nightmare is over. It's a question of time, maybe a few hours, maybe a few days, at best, where Gadhafi's whereabouts will be known. He will be either captured or killed. But the era of Moammar Gadhafi is finished, and now there's a new dawn in Libya full of possibilities and full of potential setbacks.
This is going to be a very difficult transition. Libya is a country bereft of functioning institutions. Civil society was smothered a long time ago.
You have some serious regional, tribal, ethnic divisions. The transitional council is going to face a tremendous challenge in maintaining order, and then begin the long, bumpy process of transition. And they're going to need the support of their neighbors, the Europeans, and the United States.
STOUT: You say that the era of Colonel Gadhafi is finished. You listed a number of challenges ahead.
Does the opposition have a credible plan for the immediate post-Gadhafi era?
MELHEM: I don't see a credible plan. And it's difficult, really, and one has to be fair to expect now a clear roadmap ahead.
Obviously, the transitional authority is going to be under the watchful eyes of the European and the international community because they have been involved, and that's why they need help. The challenge will be for them now to set up some sort of a structure that will supervise the transition, a structure that will be inclusive of Libyan political differences, tribal differences, regional differences.
It has to be representative. This is a shattered country, even physically. Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, the transition was bloody.
So, in that sense, it's going to be difficult. They have all resources. They have money that is frozen in European and American banks. This will be released.
But as we've seen in the case of Iraq, having money or having oil resources in and of itself is not enough. So one would hope that they would learn a few lessons from Iraq. But at this stage, the most important thing is to maintain order in the major Libyan cities, and to prevent looting. And luckily, that did not happen, as we've seen it in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam. So there are some encouraging signs because there is a lot of Libyan talent, by the way. And it's all over the world, unfortunately, and those people should be brought back to Libya so that their skills can be put to good use.
STOUT: Well, let's hope that the many lessons learned from Baghdad and elsewhere will also be applied to what's happening now and what's happening in the future there in Tripoli.
Thank you very much, indeed.
Now, when we come back, we will look at how an end to the Gadhafi regime might affect oil prices around the world. Stick around.
STOUT: Welcome back. And you're back with our continuing coverage of the battle for Libya.
Let's try to map this out for you.
In the west, we have the capital, Tripoli. But traditionally, the rebel stronghold has been here in the east of the country, many miles from the scene of other recent battles. And that's where the cities of Benghazi and Ajdabiya are located.
And earlier today, the Libyan Transitional National Council's ambassador to the U.S. brought us some news from another nearby city, al Brega.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have very good news also from al Brega now. I understand that the Gadhafi brigades, they raised the white flag, and the revolutionary and the national army, they will enter the third section, what they call the industrial area. And that's -- Libya is under the control of the TNC now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: But today, all eyes are on Tripoli and the nearby city of Zawiya. Now, after fierce fighting, rebels took Zawiya and then continued their march to Tripoli, the jewel in Gadhafi's crown.
Now, an advanced party approached the capital by sea, bolstering the troops already there, as more backup arrived by land. And rebel flags were soon raised above man buildings in Tripoli, with commanders claiming control of "a great majority of the capital."
Now, in Zawiya, residents celebrated by firing guns in the air, setting off fireworks, and chanting, "Libya is free!"
And in Benghazi, one resident said the rebel gains were as joyous as New Year's Day.
As the end apparently draws near for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, residents are getting increasingly vocal about what closing the book on Gadhafi would mean for them in Libya. This unnamed resident of Tripoli says the changes will be hard, but welcome.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We lived 42 years of hell. Anything that's going to come after this is going to be better than what we lived in the past four decades. Anything that is going to come is going to be a lot better than what we went through, but it will be difficult, and I'm not saying it's going to be amazing, and it's not going to be America tomorrow.
But we will see drastic changes in this country, in the people. We grew to love each other. For the first time in 42 years, we feel like we're one country.
Before it was always like, oh, it's just me and my people. Now we love each other.
People in Tripoli are chanting for Benghazi. People in Benghazi are chanting for Zintan. People in Zintan are chanting for Misrata. And it goes on.
It's like we're one, united against this one person that made us live in hell for the past 42 years. Finally, we can go out and say what we want, ask for what we deserve, and get it.
Right now we can think without being shot. Before, you couldn't even think to yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: Now, we were hoping to talk to a resident in Tripoli, and are in fact connected to his phone. And there has been gunfire. He is now unable to talk to us.
I don't know if we can pump up the volume on what we're hearing on the line right now, but we've been waiting to get in touch with an eyewitness there on the ground. And we've been hearing -- I believe it's sporadic gunfire from his line. This eyewitness, who obviously cannot talk to us at the moment, but has left his phone line open.
Take a listen to what he is experiencing. Let's just listen for a moment.
OK. That line was just dropped then, but you just got, through audio, a glimpse of what one person was witnessing on the ground there in Tripoli, an eyewitness we were hoping to talk to, to find out what his experience is of the battle of Tripoli that is going on.
We've been hearing gunfire, gunshots on that line. Unfortunately, we don't know the status of this eyewitness, or this person. We'll try to bring him back up again so we can talk to him about what he has just experienced.
Now, it's not just Libyans who are watching developments in Tripoli with a keen eye. The effects of the uprising are felt all over the world, and very strongly in the oil markets.
So Ramy Inocencio joins us now with more.
And what's happening with the price of oil at this moment?
RAMY INOCENCIO, CNN INTERNATIONAL ASIA BUSINESS ANALYST: Yes, Kristie. Well, right now the price of oil has actually been falling over the past 24 hours, as we've seen this conflict sort of come to a close.
Right now it's trading at about $107.16. It had been as low as three percent down, but now it's pulled back those losses, and it's now trading about two percent down.
But basically, we're looking at this price fall because we're looking at the end game, potentially the end game of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, the end game of a conflict that's pretty much raged for the past six months or so. And so as this conflict potentially winds down, there's a potential for peace to take hold. And when that peace takes hold, potentially oil production may then go up. So, as that oil production potentially goes from the pipeline, that's why we're seeing this go down.
STOUT: It's interesting, isn't it? The markets are banking on an end to the Gadhafi regime and a peaceful transition so that they will be able to access the oil that they haven't been able to access for the last few months.
Just how important is Libya to global oil production?
INOCENCIO: Right. Well, you know, specifically with Europe, actually, it is very, very important.
Libyan oil, 80 percent of it actually goes to Europe. As you can see by the percents here, Italy, 32 percent; Germany, 14 percent; France, 10 percent. So we're talking about a lot of oil.
But basically, you know, at the peak of production that Libya had seen just a few years ago, basically they were producing 1.5 million barrels of oil per day. And that actually equals two percent of global consumption also per day.
So this is clearly something huge. It might be two percent, but that's a lot of oil.
China, Spain, U.S., also big consumers of oil, five percent here. You wouldn't really expect that the U.S. might be actually taking Libyan oil, but here you can see the numbers for yourself.
STOUT: Yes. That's right.
Ramy Inocencio, thank you very much indeed for that update.
Now, coming up next, we'll find out what NATO's ongoing role in the battle for Libya will be.
And jubilation in the streets -- it is not all in Libya. Celebrations in Egypt, coming up on CNN.
LU STOUT: Welcome back.
Now events are moving quickly in Libya. Let's recap the latest. A major battle is underway for the capital Tripoli. And this hour our correspondent reports that rebel forces have begun pulling back from an area near Green Square after facing heavy resistance from government troops. Rebel fighters are also clashing with forces loyal to president Moammar Gadhafi near the Rick Sos (ph) Hotel. It's one of his remaining strongholds.
And the big question is where is Gadhafi? The opposition believes that the president is either hiding in Tripoli, has fled to southern Libya, or to neighboring Chad or Algeria. Now the rebels also claim that three of his sons have been captured and that Saif al Islam, Saadi and Mohammed are now in their custody.
World leaders are reacting to what is a very fluid situation. British Prime Minister David Cameron says the regime is falling apart and in full retreat. He says the most important thing is for the Transitional National Council to establish security and prevent reprisals. As the sentiment echoed by the rebels' governing body.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUMA EL-GAMATY, UK COORDINATOR, NATL. TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL: I think we look to stabilize the situation in Tripoli as soon as possible and hopefully within a few days the NTC will be placed in Tripoli, the capital, and the process of stabilization of Tripoli and the whole country and getting on with the transitional period will begin in earnest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LU STOUT: NATO has been a key aspect of the rebels' advance. And without its air support and targeting of Gadhafi's resources it could be a very different picture. Now NATO's secretary general spoke in Brussels a little earlier joining the call for a swift end to hostilities.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: The Gadhafi regime is clearly crumbling. The sooner Gadhafi realizes that he cannot win the battle against his own people the better. So that the Libyan people can be spared further bloodshed and suffering. The Libyan people have suffered tremendously under Gadhafi's rule for over four decades. Now they have a chance for a new beginning.
Now is the time for all threats against civilians to stop as the United Nations security council demanded. Now is the time to create a new Libya, a state based on freedom, not fear, democracy, not dictatorship, the will of the many, not the whims of a few.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LU STOUT: And what began with anti-government demonstrations in February and escalated into a full scale civil war could soon be resolved. Now on Sunday government spokesman Musa Ibrahim declared the capital was being turned into a hellfire and that the rebel surge will lead to a humanitarian disaster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUSA IBRAHIM, GADHAFI REGIME SPOKESMAN: NATO has intensified its attacks on and around Tripoli, giving immediate and direct support for the rebels forces to advance into a peaceful capital of this great nation and the death toll is beyond imagination. Last night, the number was 376 people dead and almost 900 injured. Some of them, of course, are because of NATO's attacks on our checkpoints, army, soldiers and our streets and neighborhoods. Some other are because of the fighting between us and the rebels.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LU STOUT: World leaders have been reacting to the situation in Libya via Twitter. And here's what a few of them are saying.
Now from Jordan, Queen Noor tweeted this "Libya has not been a short space of time, but months of sacrifice and dedication. Did anyone really think Tripoli would resist hope for freedom?"
And this from Australia's foreign minister Kevin Rudd. He says, "new challenges just beginning for the new Libya. Oz continues as one of larger international humanitarian supporters."
And U.S. President Barack Obama did not post to Twitter immediately, but U.S. senator John McCain did. And he tweeted this, "freedom for Libya. Now the hard work of democracy begins. And the U.S. should help."
And the former White House staffer P.J. Crowley, very active on Twitter, he also weighed in saying "that the TNC must quickly demonstrate it can credibly move Libya forward. There will be lots of jockeying as a new political order is formed."
Now CNN's Sarah Sidner is in the Libyan capital. We are trying to get touch with her. And her team are in what they describe as an urgent security situation right now. But this is what she sent us after a harrowing night on the road with rebel troops.
SARAH SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're on the (inaudible) road to Green Square. What we are seeing are rebels that are filling the streets. They are celebrating. There are very, very jubilant that they've been able to come into this city so easily. Everybody seems to have guns here (inaudible).
We have seen some families, for the first time, seen some families out. They are yelling Allah al Akbar, God is great. A happy scene (inaudible) Gadhafi regime did not show much resistance. And they feel like they are finally able to speak their minds about this regime they are very unhappy with.
Just a few residents. We see a little boy that's here. And some bonfire, not as much as what we've seen in the past where the rebels were (inaudible).
LU STOUT: Sarah Sidner reporting there.
Now Colonel Gadhafi, he has put up a tireless fight, but the Arab Spring is proving strong. Will it be long before the people's movement brings down Syria's leader as well? We'll take a look just ahead.
LU STOUT: Welcome back.
Now we have now managed to get in touch with our Sarah Sidner live in the Libyan capital. She joins me now live from Tripoli. And Sarah, just moments ago we weren't able to contact you, because you and the crew were in, quote, an urgent security situation. What was happening?
Hi Sarah, it's Kristie in Hong Kong. Can you hear? And give us an update?
SIDNER: Yes (inaudible) area (inaudible) where there was (inaudible).
LU STOUT: OK. Obviously, Sarah Sidner is trying to report to us on the line. That's a very patchy connection there. Barely able to make out what she was saying. We're trying to reestablish that line, bring her back to you as soon as we can.
Now meanwhile in Egypt, there were more sounds of jubilation overnight and into Monday morning, this time in Egypt. Now were able to see earlier crowds of Libyans as they gathered outside the Libyan consulate in Alexandria cheering and waving flags in celebration of news that rebels now controlled parts of the capital Tripoli, a former Gadhafi stronghold.
And for more on the reaction from Egypt as well as additional insight and analysis about the situation inside Libya, Ben Wedeman joins us now from the capital of Cairo. And Ben, you've covered Libya extensively, but before we get to Tripoli, what has been the reaction there in Cairo?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Reaction, Kristie, has been very positive. Egyptians have been by and large supportive of the Libyan revolution from the very beginning. We saw, for instance, on the Libyan border the first time I went into the country there were people demonstrating to make the Egyptian authorities to allow them to bring medical supplies, relief supplies into eastern Libyan.
The Egyptian government is still sort of sitting on the fence regarding the legal, the political status of the Transitional National Council. The Libyan embassy in Cairo still appears to be under the control of the -- what remains of Gadhafi's government. But ordinary Egyptians, as I said, have been supportive of the uprising against Gadhafi. In fact, I met many Egyptians who had in fact joined the ranks of the rebels fighting against the Gadhafi regime -- Kristie.
LU STOUT: Ben, you were CNN's first correspondent inside Libya at the start of the uprising, what are your thoughts now as we witness the rebel advance on Tripoli and what some say is the apparent downfall of Colonel Gadhafi?
WEDEMAN: Well, certainly the feeling was from very early on was that eventually somehow the opposition would be able to overwhelm Moammar Gadhafi. It was clear from speaking to almost anybody in the country that he was a leader who was well past his due date. He was disliked. Many Libyans resented him for squandering the significant wealth on the country on foreign adventures and pointless projects. But we saw that the going was very tough for some time. The -- Gadhafi's forces almost retook the city of Benghazi in March, and that would have essentially killed the uprising.
But NATO stepped in at the last moment and really the last few weeks we've seen this steady, the steady advances by the rebels. And of course, now they're in the heart of Tripoli.
It's not necessarily over yet. There are forces still loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, not necessarily defending him, but they realize that when the regime falls they may pay a heavy price for their loyalty -- Kristie.
LU STOUT: Ben, as you point out it is not over yet. The battles are ongoing. But were you at all surprised at the pace of the rebel advance and how they were able to sweep into the capital with very little resistance from Gadhafi fighters?
WEDEMAN: In fact, what we had heard from people coming out of Tripoli was that the expectation was that the battle for the capital would be a blood bath, that Gadhafi would really throw everything he had left at his disposal into the battle.
But what we were also hearing from, for instance, captured Libyan army officers and soldiers was that the army was suffering from poor leadership, a shortage of ammunition and equipment, and moral was collapsing.
Now some people doubted those accounts, but what's clear is that when it -- when push is come to shove, when really the regime is up against a wall in Tripoli, that a lot of the people who were thought to -- who people thought would stand and fight have decided that it's -- there's no point at this stage. It's probably better just to throw away the uniforms and sink back into civilian life -- Kristie.
LU STOUT: Ben Wedeman joining us live from Cairo. Thank you very much indeed.
Now with more on Gadhafi's future increasingly uncertain, a photo, taken in Libya less than a year ago is a symbol of how quickly the region has changed. Now this was a scene at a summit in Sirte, Libya in October of 2010. Now Gadhafi, he is seen posing with three of the 10 leaders of the region. And to his far left, Tunisian president Ben Ali, who January ouster began the so-called Arab Spring. And to his left, the president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was badly injured in an assassination attempt in June as yet to return to his country after leaving for treatment. And to his right, the former president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, who fled Cairo in February.
It is a snapshot of a very different time in the Middle East. As the world waits to see the future for Libya.
And as the Gadhafi regime teeters on the edge of collapse, international eyes are also on Syria. The UN human rights council was set to discuss allegations of rights abuses there. Ivan Watson is monitoring the situation from Istanbul. He joins us now.
And Ivan, first of all, what kind of pressure do these developments in Libya now put on Bashar al Assad?
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so interesting to see that photo there of those Arab leaders and now the question what can happen to Bashar al Assad who is also facing the most serious popular challenge to his family's more than 40 years governing Syria. There are difference. For the most part, the popular protests in Syria have been unarmed. And there has been no foreign military intervention to speak of as we've seen in Libya.
But we've seen Bashar al Assad borrow from the same playbook as these other dictators, sending in tanks, troops as well, in recent cases, reports of warships, actually, firing at Syrian cities and towns to try to crush the rebellion.
He's also accused his own citizens who have protested against him of being agents of foreign governments, of being armed gangs, also using similar rhetoric that these other dictators who have since fallen had used.
He addressed his nation for the first time in more than two months last night, Kristie, and did not really talk about the massive loss of life, at least 2,000 people killed over the past month, instead he talked about reforms, about implementing new laws, and the possibility of having elections for a new parliament by February.
Syrian opposition activists say he's very divorced from reality in his country -- Kristie.
LU STOUT: You know, at least 2,000 people, as you mentioned, killed in this ongoing crackdown inside Syria. What is the latest on the unrest? And what that United Nations team could be witnessing there after the arrival over the weekend?
WATSON: Well, we've gotten some reports from opposition groups, the London based Syrian observatory for Human Rights saying that security forces opened fire on hundreds of protesters who were demonstrating in the town of Homs in -- coinciding with the UN human rights group's visit to that city. We haven't been able to independently confirm that.
Also reports of at least two people killed in Hama Province. And this as the Syrian President Bashar al Assad was talking about reform. That's one of the problems with his crisis of credibility now with his own citizens and with the international community.
There was an emergency session of the United National human rights council taking place in Geneva right now. Four Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, have called for that session to be held more international pressure on Bashar al Assad.
And he can't help but notice, I think, the fact that his -- the Libyan embassy in Damascus, has basically raised the rebel Libyan flag today, announced its solidarity with the opposition Transitional National Council in his own capital. We saw that taking place here in Turkey as well. Pictures of that three color flag going up in Ankara. And just perhaps another warning to another Arab dictator whose back is increasingly up against the wall under pressure from his own people -- Kristie.
LU STOUT: Ivan Watson joining us live there from Turkey. And thank you for bringing the story back to Libya. We're going to give you more coverage of the situation there in Libya after the break.
LU STOUT: Welcome back to our ongoing coverage of the uprising inside Libya. Mustafa Abdel Jalil is speaking from Benghazi. He is with the National Transitional Council. I understand we have translation. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
MUSTAFA ABDEL JALIL, TNC CHAIRMAN (through translator): ...the goals and aspirations that I aim for. But I do expect all the youths and the revolutionaries to be up to the task. We aim for the peace, justice, and nation of law (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These questions have already been answered.
JALIL: One question, only, at a time.
QUESTION: Mr. Mustafa Jalil, you gave the trust to Mr. Gadhafi. So what will happen to the person who actually fired at Mr. Gadhafi? You (inaudible). And we heard he has been shot at? What are you going to do about it?
JALIL: I never grant him safe, but I did get in touch with the team which protect him when he was in Al Jazeera (ph). I can confirm that his bodyguards and his -- the other one who actually fired...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was fighting outside his house? Shot at the revolutionaries. And the result was the death of one and one of his guards...
JALIL: Was injured.
There was an exchange of fire on some of the guards was injured.
When Mohammed and his family didn't suffer any injuries or anything.
QUESTION: (OFF MIKE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you repeat the question please?
QUESTION: (OFF MIKE)
JALIL: We hope (inaudible) so you can have the opportunity to have a fair trial. So the whole world can watch the biggest dictator. And offer him a fair trial.
But I don't know how he can present a defense against all this atrocities of crimes he committed against the Libyan people and the world.
Three more questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Jalil you mentioned that you had fears that might drive you resign. What is the nature of these fears? And what is its relationship to the revolution?
LU STOUT: And we have been listening to a live press conference coming out of Benghazi. That was Mustafa Abdel Jalil of the TNC addressing the point of view from the opposition. The opposition has claimed that they have seen three of Gadhafi's sons. They said that there was an exchange of gunfire when the three were seized and that the guards were wounded. And he also added when asked the question what would happen in the event of the capture of Colonel Gadhafi he said this. If Gadhafi is captured, we plan to offer him a fair trial, but we don't know how to prepare a defense given the atrocities he committed.
The word from Benghazi there.
You're watching NEWS STREAM, but the news continues at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next. And we leave you with the scenes on the streets of Tripoli this morning. A historic day for Libya.