Rebel Spokesman to Haaretz: Libya Needs World's Help, Including Israel's

Ahmed Shabani says recognition of Israel by future elected Libyan government is 'very sensitive question. The question is whether Israel will recognize us'.

Yossi Melman head
Yossi Melman
Yossi Melman head
Yossi Melman

Libya needs any help it can get from the international community, including from Israel, a spokesman for the opposition to Muammar Gadhafi's regime told Haaretz Tuesday by phone from London.

When asked what sort of assistance Libya required, Ahmed Shabani, the founder of Libya's Democratic Party, said: "We are asking Israel to use its influence in the international community to end the tyrannical regime of Gadhafi and his family."

Libyans holding a huge flag celebrate overrunning Muammar Gadhafi's main compund in Tripoli, Libya, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011.Credit: AP

Shabani, 43, is the son of a former minister in the cabinet of Libya's king, who was deposed in 1969. After the military coup led by Gadhafi, the Shabani family fled Libya and settled in London.

Shabani, who was educated in Britain, later returned to Libya and began working for an opposition group.

In March, he began to speak out against the regime, but he returned to London when he felt his life was in danger.

The weight he carries in Libya's emerging political fabric is unclear. But in recent months Shabani has appeared in the Western media as a spokesman for the opposition.

When Shabani was asked whether a democratically elected government in Libya would recognize Israel, he responded: "That is a very sensitive question. The question is whether Israel will recognize us."

Shabani mentioned Gadhafi's eccentric ideas about the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the founding of a single country to be called "Israstine." But Shabani said his group believed in two countries, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace - the two-state solution.

Regarding Gadhafi's claims that Al-Qaida operatives were supporting the rebels, Shabani said the opposite was true. He said Al-Qaida activists have been working for Gadhafi, among them Libyans and, according to reliable intelligence reports, foreigners who infiltrated the country's porous borders.

According to Israeli intelligence, since the uprising, as part of a huge black market in weapons in Libya, arms have been smuggled from Libya to the Gaza Strip via Egypt. Shabani said the opposition was aware of the smuggling and hoped to end it.

According to Shabani, the transition to the new Libya needed an organization under the aegis of the United Nations to supervise democratic elections. He said he hoped to see a South Africa-style reconciliation committee established to prevent acts of revenge or a new civil war.

People celebrate what they believe is the nearly end of the military conflict against Gadhafi's regime at the rebel-held town of Benghazi, Libya, August 23, 2011.Credit: AP

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