VIENNA, (Reuters) – Libya needs to reform its state-run economy and carry out privatisations if it is to attract foreign investors and U.S. oil companies, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said.
“Libyans want a better life. They want reforms and good relations with Europe and the United States,” said Saif al Islam in an interview with the Austrian newspaper Die Presse published on Friday.
“They want to see foreign investment and more European tourists in Libya. They want the return of American oil companies,” added the 33-year-old reformist.
Diplomats in Tripoli say Saif al Islam is Gaddafi’s most trusted unofficial envoy. They believe he was instrumental in Libya’s drive in 2003 to abandon weapons of mass destruction and re-establish relations with Western detractors such as Britain and the United States.
While improving ties with Libya and ending a trade embargo, Washington held back on restoring full diplomatic relations cut off more than two decades ago, indicating Libya needed to do more on human rights, democracy and fighting terrorism.
A supporter of liberal reforms in the Arab world as his country emerges from decades of isolation, Saif al Islam said autocratic Arab governments should give way to democracy.
Saif al Islam, who heads a foundation that in 2000 helped free hostages held by Muslim rebels in the Philippines, is a regular visitor to Austria where he studied in the late 1990s, befriending Austrian right-wing populist Joerg Haider.