The Cable

Former Libyan Ambassador: We want America to stay involved

The Libyan rebels’ representative in Washington, Ali Aujali, called on the United States to stay at the fore of the international effort to oust Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi and to give the opposition leadership weapons and access to billions in frozen Libyan assets. "The United States is the major player in this crisis. We ...

The Libyan rebels’ representative in Washington, Ali Aujali, called on the United States to stay at the fore of the international effort to oust Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi and to give the opposition leadership weapons and access to billions in frozen Libyan assets.

"The United States is the major player in this crisis. We want the administration and we want your support to keep the role of the United States alive. We want American to be involved," Aujali said at the Center for American Progress on Monday. Aujali previously served as Qaddafi’s ambassador to Washington before joining the opposition in February. "For the United States to continue to be a major player in this crisis, this is very important."

He said he understood the domestic considerations in the United States, but insisted that the Obama administration still had a huge role to play in supporting the armed resistance to Qaddafi and continuing aid to Libya’s civilian population.

"It will change a lot the image of the United States in the Arab and Muslim world. People will see Americans not only go because they have interests, they go to support freedom, they go to support people who are willing to die for their cause," he said. "This is a great achievement for American foreign policy."

Aujali called on the Obama administration to recognize the National Transitional Council, which is based in Benghazi, as Italy did today. He also called on the international community to give the council access to assets of the Qaddafi regime that were frozen as part of U.N. Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973.

"If we don’t have access to the money, that’s a serious problem," he said.

The Libyan opposition has been in contact with the State Department and the Treasury Department to press their case for control of the funds, Aujali said. "It may just be a matter of time, but time means more killing of the Libya people, more suffering, shortages of food and water… We have to move fast if we want to save the Libyan people from this massacre."

Aujali said that he had met with several lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), John Kerry (D-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and others.

Aujali’s basic demands mirrored those in his March 31 op-ed in the Washington Post. "If you want the opposition to achieve victory on the ground then we need to help them. They need training, they need armament, they need political support."

He claimed that the Qaddafi regime is collapsing from the inside, and made clear that the Libya people will never strike any deal with Qaddafi that would keep  any member of his family in power, as his son Seif al-Islam has reportedly suggested. Aujali also denied reports that there are deep divisions within the opposition.

"There is not a split among the council or among the military leadership at all," he said.

Overall, Aujali’s message was that the Libyan rebels will never stop fighting until the entire Qaddafi family is gone from power and, while the no-fly zone is helpful, the international community must not stop there.

"If Qaddafi stays behind, not only will the Libyans be victimized. All of us will be victims. It is time for us now to get rid of this man. It’s time for us to give Libyans a chance to rule themselves," he said. "The Libyans have the right to dream. And they are prepared to die."

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