Saturday, February 26, 2011

Libya Portrays Peaceful Capital City of Tripoli

Gaddafi's son portrays a peaceful Tripoli

8:56pm EST
By Maria Golovnina

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - 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

Police were using batons and whips to keep them out.

Many were laborers 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

"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.

(Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

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