Gaddafi's son portrays a peaceful Tripoli

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi called much of the reporting "lies" by a hostile media and denied his father's forces had bombed civilians

Gaddafi's son portrays a peaceful Tripoli

For the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the streets of Tripoli are full of jubilant crowds shooting fireworks, chanting songs and celebrating his father's long rule -- a picture painted on state television.

"Everything is calm," Saif al-Islam Gaddafi told a group of foreign journalists invited to the Libyan capital after 10 days of unrest during which media access has been limited.

"If you hear fireworks don't mistake it for shooting," the 38-year-old London-educated younger Gaddafi said, smiling.

Outside the luxury hotel where we met, the city was indeed quiet -- but the quiet of empty streets where there would more normally be animation on a Friday night.

As we arrived at Tripoli's international airport, the fear that has gripped the city was evident on the faces of thousands of desperate migrant workers besieging the main gate trying to get out of the country.

Police were using batons and whips to keep them out.

Many were labourers from the Middle East, Africa and China, wrapped in thick blankets against gusts of cold wind outside the airport, which was adorned with portraits of Gaddafi's father.

Attempts by foreign journalists to interview them were intercepted by police and militias wearing green arm bands. A Reuters photographer was detained for several hours. "Don't try to run. We will catch you," one policeman told him in English.

Two international television crews were hustled along by security officers as the reporters tried to talk to migrants.

Residents in the capital, contacted by telephone, spoke of fear and killings as a revolt which has seen Muammar Gaddafi lose control of the east of the country closes in on his Tripoli stronghold.

But at the hotel, with its glittering lobby and chandeliers built with the influx of petrodollars that followed the West's easing of sanctions in recent years, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi described a different Libya.

"Peace is coming back to our country," he said, plainly at ease in the opulent surroundings, clad in a fashionable sweater and jeans and chatting casually in English.

Bodyguards stared as foreign journalists pressed him to explain the violence in the country.

He called much of the reporting "lies" by a hostile media and denied his father's forces had bombed civilians.

"We are laughing at these reports," he said, adding it had been a mistake to keep foreign media out and urging reporters to now interview "hundreds or thousands" of people for themselves.

"The biggest problem is the hostile media campaigns against us. They want to show Libya is burning, that there is a big revolution here," he said. "You are wrong. We are united."

Local journalists from state media applauded.

Reuters

Last Mod: 26 Şubat 2011, 09:28
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