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Libyan Prime Minister Freed; The Birth Pains of a New State; Imagine a World

Aired October 10, 2013 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

And tonight, if a prime minister can be kidnapped, what is next? The perilous state of Libya.

Just two weeks ago here in New York, the Libyan prime minister, Ali Zeidan, told me that his country isn't a failing state; it is not even a state yet.

He warned about militants who continue to run rampant ever since the revolution that ousted Moammar Gadhafi two years ago. And today, he learned just how right he was.

Here in this picture in Tripoli, a shaken-looking prime minister who had been brazenly kidnapped by the very militias he had told me about, gunmen broke into a luxury hotel where Mr. Zeidan is living and marched out with him under the cover of darkness.

According to a witness, not a shot was fired and hours later he was freed unharmed.

Later this was the chaotic scene outside government headquarters as Mr. Zeidan met with his ministers to tell them what had happened. And then on national television, he appealed to his country and to Libya's international backers.


ALI ZEIDAN, LIBYAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I hope we can change this issue with wisdom and calm, away from tension and escalation. I want to reassure the forces inside Libya that this issue happened within the context of Libyan political disagreements and foreigners are not being targeted.


AMANPOUR: Both the United States and Britain have condemned the kidnapping and pledge to keep supporting the government.

But why did this happen? Tonight, we cover the whole story. Later, my now prophetic interview with Prime Minister Zeidan as well as analysis of where Libya is headed.

But first, joining me on the phone from Tripoli in the midst of this crisis, Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdelaziz.

Foreign Minister, thank you for joining me. Let me ask you first, you were there. You went and you were talked to by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, along with other ministers.

What did he tell you?

MOHAMMED ABDELAZIZ, LIBYAN FOREIGN MINISTER: You know, I think the abduction of the prime minister was very clear that a very specific military group that they have abducted him, I think he didn't explain exactly the reasons behind this abduction. He didn't go into any details.

But it seems to me that this particular case is going to be explained by the prime minister, I think, within one hour time, given the fact that he's going to have a press conference.

But all in all, there is a serious problem as far as the situation when the groups still have answer their hands (ph). And they have their agenda how the government should run.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's exactly right. Mr. Foreign Minister, these people apparently didn't even have an arrest warrant and they were apparently aligned with the interior ministry. I mean, really, it just beggars belief, how you can march in and kidnap, abduct, take away the elected prime minister.

ABDELAZIZ: Christiane, in the absence of a functional strong and humane criminal justice in Libya, these things could happen any time because the main guarantees of the democratic institution and the speedy movement from the state of the revolution to building the state of the law and viable governance is the presence of a criminal justice system that's capable of protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

And therefore, this type of groups exploit this type of gap that exists in the country at the moment, even the fact that we are in the process of building our criminal justice system and therefore I see it as a result of a gap that exists and will exist until we reach the state that we have such system in place, not to speak of the fact that in the absence of a proper defense and a proper police also in place, it will be difficult to ensure that the security in place.

On the other hand --


AMANPOUR: Well, exactly -- Mr. Foreign Minister, let me just ask you, Mr. Foreign Minister, because the prime minister told me that they really need help setting up a central organized security system, whether it's police or the military.

So how serious are your backers in NATO?

How serious are they about helping with this precise task of forming and setting up a security situation?

ABDELAZIZ: Let me confirm to you, Christiane, that the -- we have quiet excellent support from the international community.

Our international partners, either the United States, the U.K., Italy, Turkey, they are ready, in fact, to provide support, not to mention our brothers at Saudi Arabia, the emirates and other countries, Egypt, for example, Jordan, Sudan, Morocco, Algeria, all of them are united in really providing such support to build our own security, either the intelligence or security proper, at the same time to build our defense.

So rest assured that the political commitment on the part of the G8, for example, is very strong. It demonstrated in the meeting in New York just two weeks ago.

AMANPOUR: OK. That might be all well and good, but it simply isn't happening at a speed that most Libyans would hope that it would happen; two years, you know, after the fall of Gadhafi, you're trying to have an emerging democracy.

So what exactly, what precisely is it going to take?

ABDELAZIZ: Honestly, it is a process, Christiane. It's not really a magic such that we do. It takes time for us to recruit our people, to test them medically and to prepare them for recruitment. It takes time for them to be trained.

As you know, the difference between a revolution in Egypt and Tunisia and Libya, we are starting from scratch. And I think it will take time.

As long as we have a sustained support on the part of the international community, I think Libya will make it.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe that this abduction, this kidnapping, had anything to do with the U.S. grabbing Abu Anas al-Libi?

ABDELAZIZ: I don't really see the relevance of this abduction to that of what happened two days ago because the debate in relation to the disagreements between some of the military groups and the government officials, it was there for some time. And therefore I do not see a direct link between the two.

AMANPOUR: And finally, you say that this is all going to take a long time. But there have been some 90 major incidents over the last couple of years, and there's a perception that the government simply doesn't crack down, prosecute and, you know, make these things much more difficult.

Why is there that inability of the government to punish these kinds of abductions?

ABDELAZIZ: Christiane, it's not the inability of the government. The government needs tools in its hand to act. In the absence of a proper military and a proper police, a proper intelligence, as I mentioned to you, a proper criminal justice system in place, it will be very difficult, you know, for the government to deliver.

So the process is that we are establishing such institutions. And we really need time. And this is the reason why I mentioned to you that with the assistance and support of the international community and the political commitment that they have from north and south, east and west, I think Libya will prove that it's going to deliver in the future.

AMANPOUR: Well, on that note, Mr. Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Abdelaziz, thank you so much for joining me.

ABDELAZIZ: Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And Mustafa Abushagur is the former prime minister-elect of Libya. He joins me live now from Washington.

Thanks for joining me. We've spoken before about the situation in your country



ABUSHAGUR: I'm sorry; go ahead.

AMANPOUR: Sorry. Let me just ask you, you just heard what the foreign minister said, that, A, it takes time and, B, we need international support.

How much time does Libya have to get its security situation in order?

ABUSHAGUR: Let me, first of all, I would like to condemn the abduction of our prime minister and I've very pleased to see that he is free and safe.

The -- of course, the challenge of security in Libya, it has been from the beginning, from day one after the liberation of Libya.

And at the beginning, it was some improvement over the first year, but unfortunately, over the last six months, there was a deterioration in the security in general by the increase of the assassinations; we have almost about 80 assassinations that took place especially in the -- in the east part of the country.

AMANPOUR: Why is there an increase? Why did that happen over the last six months?

ABUSHAGUR: Over the last six months, I think there is -- there is a - - the -- some of these militant (ph) formations or the thuwar revolutionaries, who really are, many of them really, they were not really revolutionaries. Many of them are really criminals or former criminals. They have gained so much power.

And especially since the police and the army formation is taking a little longer time, so those people really became far more powerful and they start to challenge the state. And also the same time, there is -- some of these assassinations and so on, really they were revenge for things that took place back in the '90s and so on.

AMANPOUR: All right. Well --

ABUSHAGUR: So this is -- it's very unfortunate that we have at this moment, especially over the last few months, this deterioration and also at the same time, this reflected also in many aspects of the life of the Libyans. I mean, their services.

And the broader (inaudible) people realize or find out that the -- our National Congress and also the government really are not helping. They're not being able to take the country out of the current situation.

AMANPOUR: Well, right. And I think what's stunning also is that this particular group of militants seem to have been allied with a part of the government, the minister of the interior.

How do you break that link? How do you break that habit of various militias working for an against various different parts of the government?

ABUSHAGUR: Yes, this is -- this is very unfortunate fact, is that this group, again, which right now claim that they are the one who abducted the prime minister, they are part of the supreme security committee, which is really part of the ministry of interior.

This committee which right now is made out of more than 100,000 people who are, some of them they were -- fought during the revolution. And others who, really, they just joined for many other reasons.

So but unfortunately, that nobody has really control on them because when they got into this supreme security committee, they already came as a group, so they kept their groups are intact. And that's really the challenge that we have.

And also at the same time, those people, they were not trained as police officers. So there is no discipline that takes place. And unfortunately, when those people, they find themselves that have the power to go and abduct -- of course, many, many innocent Libyan people have been abducted and also some of them have been tortured by similar groups.

And now they took it to the -- all the way up to the prime minister.

AMANPOUR: Well, I'm not hearing any solution or any idea of how to change this. I didn't hear that from the foreign minister and I wonder whether you, if you're still prime minister, would have a way to figure out how to change this.

You're telling me about hundreds of thousands of basically independent militias doing, frankly, what they want. And now kidnapping the prime minister, how do break that habit? What is required?

ABUSHAGUR: Oh, I think the -- what will really take, first of all, I think we are -- we are in a situation which is a very difficult situation right now in Libya. And people, they come in person in the street; they lost their trust, both in the National Congress and also the same time as the -- as the government itself.

And this is which made many of us -- I mean, clearly, I live in Libya, I live in Tripoli. I'm just right now just visiting here in Washington. We all very worried about the situation that we might get into a kind of -- really a chaos beyond what we have today. And that's why two weeks ago I have came with this initiative which I am calling it the Restoring Hope for Libya.

And really that is a real problem, because right now we have a serious problem. The National Congress which has been elected almost 14 months ago and the Libyan people, when they elected them, they consider that they will have 18-month term, which is coming at an end by next February.

Right now, those people, they are discussing to extend their term, which again, does not go well with the Libyan people. So basically there's -- there is -- this is one of the things there, because when you don't have the trust in these institutions, we need to have a solution. And that's the initiative that they came up with.

But first of all, we want to make sure that we do it in a very democratic way and that by going to the Libyan people themselves, (inaudible) them, asking them if they will be willing to amend the declaration -- constitutional declaration so that in next March, we elect a parliament, we elect a president.

And that will give the Libyans hope because now, first of all, there will be the first time ever, there will be allowed and they asked to tell what they want to do for their future.

And that's -- and that's -- and that's, of course, we want them assured that we keep this institution intact until another elected institution comes in place because the thing we worried, most of us, is that we see that the general congress collapsed and then we can be very, very dangerous situation that we (inaudible).


AMANPOUR: Yes, it's hard to see -- Mr. Abushagur, I'm sorry; we're -- I'm very sorry, but we're slightly out of time. And it's hard to see how it could get worse than this. But I agree. You really do have a huge amount of work ahead of you. And we'll continue to follow this story. Thanks so much for your invaluable insight.

ABUSHAGUR: Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: As we know what happens in Libya, it doesn't stay in Libya. Recently I spoke to Moncef Marzouki. Now he's the president of neighboring Tunisia. I asked him if the political upheaval in Libya is affecting his own emerging democracy.


MONCEF MARZOUKI, TUNISIAN PRESIDENT: Of course, there is a huge impact. But let me remind you that under Gadhafi -- you know, Gadhafi was not just a dictator. I think he was a crazy guy.

And he had forbidden everything; society had to organize itself. So after the revolution, I can understand how difficult it -- is it now to have a state and to have a civil society and so forth. They had really to begin from nothing.


AMANPOUR: So again, how to build the nation starting from nothing? I posed that to Libya's prime minister, Ali Zeidan, before this incident, when he was here in New York at the annual U.N. summit; his answer is even more telling in the light of today's events. We'll have that when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back.

So what to do about armed militias that have run rampant in Libya since the revolution that ousted Moammar Gadhafi two years ago? It's a formula for anarchy and as we saw, it was a point made painfully clear in today's kidnapping and later release of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.

As one government minister said, Mr. Zeidan, like all other Libyan officials, is not safe.

There's also an economic cost. Militias are blocking key oil routes, costing $130 million a day. Prime Minister Zeidan was in New York last month for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. And I asked him what chance his government has, given the paralyzing economic, social and national security crisis that it faces.

And in light of today's events, we bring you that prophetic interview once again in full.


AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, welcome.

Thank you for joining me.

ALI ZEIDAN, LIBYAN PRIME MINSTER (through translator): Thank you so much, ma'am.

AMANPOUR: You know, everybody looks at Libya as a template, an example, for the post-Arab Spring world. And it doesn't look good. It looks like it's on the way to becoming a failed state awash in weapons, awash in militias. We don't know whether the militias are working for the government or the government is working for the militias.

Your oil industry, which is your lifeline, is shut down.

Is Libya a failing state?

ZEIDAN (through translator): Libya is not a failing state. The state of Libya doesn't exist yet. We are trying to create a state. And we are not ashamed of that.

The outside world believes that Libya is failing, but Libya was destroyed by Gaddafi for 42 years and was destroyed by a full year of civil war. And that's why we are trying to rebuild it.

As for the oil, oil is not completely shut down. Oil now is flowing by 40 to 50 percent. And we are hopeful that within a few days, after some attempts from us, that full production will come back.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you about that, because, obviously, various groups, the militia, rebels, whatever you want to call them, have blockaded the main terminals and it has caused your output to plummet. There have been reports that you have tried to pay off those rebels in exchange for ending this blockade.

How are you going to end it and have you tried to pay them off?

ZEIDAN (through translator): We never tried to pay anyone off because this is immoral and it doesn't -- it is inappropriate for a state to do so.

The second thing is that we are trying through the tribes -- the tribal connections -- to stay in touch with them to resolve the matter peacefully. But if it gets to at this end, the state will act as a state and will impose and enforce the rule of law against those who will violate it.

AMANPOUR: Those are fighting words.

Do you mean a military action?

Do you mean a security force action?

ZEIDAN (through translator): Everything is possible. Everything is possible, everything that could lead to bring things back to normal with the least damage possible, we'll do.

AMANPOUR: You recently went to visit General al-Sisi in Egypt and there was a lot of controversy in Tripoli after that visit.


AMANPOUR: Are you glad that the Muslim Brotherhood there was defeated, that the Egyptian military stopped that experiment?

ZEIDAN: I am not happy and I'm not sad. This is an Egyptian internal matter. I cannot have a say in that. All I can say is to bless the choice of the Egyptian people.

I went to Egypt because Egypt is a neighboring state and it's important for us to keep normal relations or good relations with Egypt. It has to be a relationship based on cooperation that serves the interests of both nations and is conducive for development in both countries.

AMANPOUR: People look at Libya. And they say, oh, my goodness, look at what's happened. We cannot intervene in Syria. It will just become the same kind of mess.

What's your answer to that?

ZEIDAN: Democracy is a process, an accumulation. Accumulation takes years and months. It doesn't happen overnight. If the world believes that after 42 years of dictatorship and despotism and after two years of civil war that democracy can come within a month, that's an illusion.

As for Egypt, I can practice democracy in my country, but I cannot interfere with others' affairs. If, in Egypt, all sides try to keep cooperation with one another, Egypt wouldn't have been in this situation.

Everybody insisted on their position and that's why things went to what they are now.

AMANPOUR: A lot of people are looking at Libya and the accountability of the former regime. Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, is on trial. And the ICC, the International Criminal Court, wants you to hand him over.

Why would you not do that?

ZEIDAN: We believe that the trial of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is an internal Libyan affair. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, what he did, he did against the Libyan people and he must be tried fairly for that. And this will happen.

AMANPOUR: Is he in your custody?

Is he even in government custody?

ZEIDAN: Yes, he is.

AMANPOUR: So no question, you're not handing him over?


AMANPOUR: Let's just move on to the issue of Benghazi and what happened there September 11th, 2012.

The attackers have been indicted and yet they remain at large in Libya.

Don't you think the U.S. is within its rights to snatch them, grab them and take them?

ZEIDAN: We are in close cooperation with the United States. We arrested some suspects and they are under investigation. And they named some other suspects.

Now, there have been indictments issued against them and they are a small number. We are in cooperation in that regard with the United States and we will continue to cooperate to reach those people and present them to justice.

What needs to be done is those people who killed Mr. Christopher be prosecuted and will be punished duly.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Zeidan, thank you very much for joining me.

ZEIDAN: I thank you so much, ma'am, for this interview. A wonderful interview. And I wish you a nice day.


AMANPOUR: Well, that was two weeks ago, and interesting what he said about the indicted killers of Chris Stevens, especially in light of the United States grabbing Abu Anas al-Libi.

And now speaking of dysfunction and an entire government held hostage, back here in the United States, the debate over the shutdown has sometimes resembled a schoolyard brawl.

And while a short-term compromise between the White House and Congress may now be in the works, the grownups at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are meeting just a few blocks away, dealing with the global fallout from America's political food fight.

When we come back, the teenager who taught the adults and the rest of the world the meaning of courage, and the remarkable doctor who gave her that chance.



AMANPOUR: And finally, tomorrow the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in Oslo, Norway, and the youngest nominee who today was the recipient of this year's prestigious Sakharov Human Rights Prize is Malala Yousafzai. She's the Pakistani teenager who defied the Taliban and put her life on the line just to go to school.

And yet imagine a world where Malala and her mission may not have survived. Fiona Reynolds, an intensive care specialist from Birmingham, England, was visiting Pakistan this time last year when the military asked for her help with a gunshot victim. A 15-year-old girl that Dr. Reynolds and most of the world had never heard of.

Only hours after emergency surgery removed a bullet from Malala's skull and saved her life, Dr. Reynolds saw the conditions in the military hospital there in Pakistan could actually kill her. There was only one sink and no running water.

As Malala's father made funeral arrangements for his daughter, Dr. Reynolds lobbied the government to airlift Pakistan's suddenly most famous and precious cargo to a state-of-the-art facility in Britain, and you know the rest.

Malala walked out of the hospital and into a worldwide embrace, inspiring other young people at the United Nations and leading the call for universal education that may produce the next Fiona Reynolds or even the next Malala.

I'll sit down with this extraordinary young woman on the eve of the Nobel announcement, and I'll bring you some of that conversation tomorrow and our special report on Malala next week.

That's it for our program tonight. And remember, you can always contact us at and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.