Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Libyan Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Khalid Kaim spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone from Tripoli about the latest developments on the ground in Libya after UN Security Council Resolution 1973 imposed a no-fly zone above the country. Libya is in a state of chaos, with US-led air strikes targeting Libyan military infrastructure throughout the country, and forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi continuing to shell the rebel-held western town of Misrata.
Dr. Kaim accused the UN-sponsored military forces of hitting civilian targets, including a hospital. He also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the human shields present in many areas under Gaddafi’s control were there of their own volition in order to protect Libya and the Gaddafi regime. Dr. Kaim did not rule out the Libyan military attacking targets in the Mediterranean, as Colonel Gaddafi previously threatened, and described Arab States as being treacherous and responsible for a conspiracy against Libya.
The following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There have been reports that Tripoli has been hit by aerial strikes, is there any truth to this?
[Kaim] This is a new Crusader war, and civilians, residential areas, and the Njela district – which is a famous neighborhood in Tripoli that includes 6,000 housing units – have all been hit. If you go there, you will see the damage inflicted on the apartment buildings, and 90 percent of all areas that have been hit have been civilian targets. The [attacks targeted the] residential neighborhood in Njela; a school in Al-Ma’murah for police cadets and trainees; the Military Engineering Faculty – which is a faculty for training military engineers – of the civilian Tajura College; a factory for computer equipment in Tajura; the customs warehouses in the area of Al-Rumman; the Air Observation Center in Tajura, which is a center for civil aviation; fuel storage tanks in Misrata; and the drugs and food warehouses in the area of Al-Mamurah, which is a supply areas that has been visited by a UN delegation.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the statistics with regards to the number of civilians who have been killed or wounded in these attacks?
[Kaim] There was a funeral this afternoon (yesterday) and we are in the process of counting the number of those killed and wounded.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Can you give us an approximate number, based on the preliminary information in your possession?
[Kaim] The preliminary figure at present is over 40.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you saying that these attacks have not hit any military target, and that they are solely targeting civilians?
[Kaim] Yes, and even the French warplane that was downed crashed above a civilian neighborhood and farms.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] So you are saying that a French warplane was shot down?
[Kaim] French Television announced a short while ago that a French warplane had crashed in the Njela area, and that it crashed in a civilian neighborhood.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Was it shot down by Libyan air defenses or by accident?
[Kaim] The circumstances are still unknown, but it is said that the air defenses shot it down.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Can you talk to us about the human shields that are present in front of the Colonel’s [Gaddafi] stronghold at Bab al-Aziziyah?
[Kaim] The people went to all the airports and vital areas, including the area of Bab al-Aziziyah to protect it.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] So the regime is not mobilizing the citizens in order to protect Colonel Gaddafi?
[Kaim] No, I swear by God. Since 3 am yesterday, tens of thousands of Libyans rushed to all areas and airports in all areas of Libya, including Bab al-Aziziyah, and the vital infrastructure in the city of Tripoli and outside the city.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are we speaking about five countries that took part in the offensive, or just the United States and France?
[Kaim] Those who truly participated in the bombardment are the French and the Americans. The French participated through their warplanes; the Americans participated via air strikes and missiles, while the British contributed to the logistical operations for the offensive.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is it true that they attacked the Muytiqah Military Air Base?
[Kaim] No, they did not, but they did attack a hospital near the Muytiqah Base and many people were killed.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you interpret the fact that in spite of these attacks, only the President of Venezuela has come out to condemn them, whilst the Arab world has remained silent?
[Kaim] Yes, the Venezuelan president did that, and Russia [also] made a statement to this effect. However, no Arab country has thus far condemned the attacks. This means that the Arabs, perhaps not all of them, have participated in this treachery. This is a clear Crusader operation, and the Arabs had previously never participated in a Crusader war such as this one. I hope that the Arab governments return to consciousness and adopt an honorable stand.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is there a solution other than a military one?
[Kaim] The Libyans are prepared for the confrontation until the last moment.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is it true that Libya has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council?
[Kaim] Yes. It is true and confirmed.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why?
[Kaim] What we are now seeing is UN aggression against an independent member state, and we intend to protest this. According to Article 51 of the UN Charter, this is considered to be flagrant and unjustified aggression. Therefore, Libya has asked the UN Security Council to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the issue of aggression. For your information, this aggression has been against civilian areas.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you expect from this meeting?
[Kaim] We intend to inform the international community of its responsibilities, and if there is chaos, then let it be known that there is chaos.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you hope that the UN Security Council will intervene in the coming hours?
[Kaim] I hope that an urgent stance will be taken by the Security Council to protect the Libyan civilians because these attacks are targeting civilians, nobody else.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is there still a chance for a peaceful solution?
[Kaim] Yes. The Council of the African Union has just concluded its meeting, and there is still a chance for dialogue and reconciliation. The treacherous Arabs have refused to even participate [in dialogue] and countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are continuing their treacherous role, and the aerial bombardment is continuing until now.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How is Libya dealing with the air strikes, on the official level as well as on the popular level?
[Kaim] On the popular level, the people are in the street and are ready for the confrontation, whilst at the official level, [we are dealing with this] through international organizations and, God willing, everything will work out.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will Libya attack targets in the Mediterranean, as Colonel Gaddafi warned?
[Kaim] As long as the battle is continuing, then everything is allowed and everything is open.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you view the Arab stance?
[Kaim] The Arab stance has become a disgraceful one. A state is facing bombardment and attack as a result of a conspiracy in which Arab countries have participated. This is something sad, and history will not forget this. The Arabs have paid for this conspiracy, which has now taken place and the aggression is ongoing.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What does Libya want from the Arabs now?
[Kaim] To act quickly and correct the mistake that has taken place. I place my hope in the Arab peoples, that they will act and adopt a position.