Entries in Christiane Amanpour (14)


Gadhafi Defiant: Vows to Repel 'Crusader Aggression'

ABC News(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- In his first comments since the U.S. and allied forces began an assault on Libyan military targets this weekend, Col. Moammar Gadhafi said that he’s prepared for a long and arduous war.

“You're not capable of a prolonged war in Libya,” Gadhafi said. “We consider ourselves ready for a long war.”

A defiant Gadhafi pledged to press forward with attacks on the rebel-held city of Benghazi and vowed to repel a "colonial crusader aggression" by international forces.

"We ask others to stand by us," he said. "We must now open the weapons depot and arms to all Libyans."

“We even train the women to fight. They are trained to carry weapons and use arms,” Gadhafi said in a phone call to State TV.

“For sure,” he said, “we're going to end up victorious. We will win.”

Also on Sunday, ABC’s Christiane Amanpour spoke exclusively with Gadhafi’s son, Saif Gadhafi, who maintained that retreat is not part of his father’s plan.

Amanpour will have more on her global exclusive with Saif Gadhafi today on ABC's This Week and throughout the day on your ABC News Radio station.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gadhafi's Son: U.N. Resolution on Libya 'Unfair'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The United States and its allies appear poised to take military action on the heels of a U.N. resolution Thursday imposing a no-fly zone over Libya and authorizing "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.

Following the resolution, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, reacted to the developments in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Christiane Amanpour.

When asked if he was worried about the actions that may stem from the United Nations' decision, Saif said, "I think we are in our country and with our people.  As I said before, we live here so we are in our country with our people.  And we are not afraid."

Saif found the resolution to be "unfair because, as you know, from the beginning we told to everybody there were no air strikes against civilians, no bombing of civilian districts or demonstrations.  And thousands of those reports showed they were false."

Throughout the interview, he reiterated that the Libyan army has been going after armored militia and terrorists, not civilians, and that the people of Libya are not happy and are pleading to be liberated.

"We want to live in peace, so we want even Americans to help us get rid of the remnants of those people [armored militia and terrorists] and to have a peaceful country, more democratic," Saif said.  "If you want to help us, help us to, you know, to be democracy, more freedom, peaceful, not to threaten us with air strikes.  We will not be afraid.  Come on!  We will not be afraid."

"I mean, you are not helping to the people if you are going to bomb Libya, to kill Libyans," he added.  "You destroy our country. Nobody is happy with that.  If you want to help us help us against terrorists, help us to build the new Libya with more democracy, more freedom, new constitution, local governments, et cetera.  But if you want to help Libyans, you send airplanes to bomb my country?  Of course not."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Aerial View: Christiane Amanpour Flies Over Japan Destruction


(TOKYO) -- We flew from Tokyo an hour up what looked like an unscathed country to the city of Sendai, through mountainous terrain where we saw little traffic but also no evidence of this massive earthquake.

When we first flew over Sendai, we saw a surprisingly composed city, with traffic heavy, we're told because of long lines for gas in town.

But just five minutes east of the city by chopper, the extent of the devastation becomes painfully clear. Huge swaths of land all along the coast remain under water. There are also huge plumes of smoke billowing from various points, including a huge fire at a refinery, with oil visibly spilling into the water.

Along the coast, acres of trees flattened in neat rows, showing where the wall of water roared over them. Just beyond that, you see all that's left of what were once houses -- now just the foundations left standing in watery inlets. Boats are smashed and piled on top of each other; cars floating with just their roofs showing above water. A few houses do still stand, but they are among debris that packs roads and waterways.

We flew over the airport, where we saw at least six military transport helicopters, presumably part of the rescue effort. The main runway is cut in two by debris, and part of it is covered by sand and silt left behind by the wave of water.

The Sendai fire station looks badly damaged, with vehicles crushed and lots of debris. Some roads look drivable, with others heavily damaged.

We saw red vehicles, presumably from the fire department, along one stretch of road, and out at sea, many more ships lining the coast, we assume there to help the rescue effort.

As severe as the damage was, we could see the dividing line where the water ended, leaving the rest of Sendai remarkably intact.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Christiane Amanpour in Libya: Poor Conditions at Tripoli Airport

(LONDON) -- When I arrived at the Tripoli airport Wednesday morning, my colleagues and I were horrified at the sea of human misery that greeted us. For at least one week, thousands of foreign contract workers have been stranded here, trying desperately to get out of Libya.

The airport grounds outside the terminal have become a filthy, impromptu refugee camp. Those that are lucky have some blankets and are huddling together in the bitter night cold. There are no facilities, no bathrooms, and for more than a week now, these people have had no airline tickets and no idea how they're going to get out. Egypt and other nations seem to be sending in some flights to get them, but nowhere near enough to manage all of them.
We practically tripped over people sleeping in dark, and the piles of trash are everywhere. Shoes, clothes, and garbage are strewn everywhere. Inside, it's not much better, if a little warmer. Hundreds of people, including women and children, are huddled next to whatever they have. The smell is rancid, and airport workers are wearing surgical masks, but it seems no one is bothering to clean up. Mysteriously, every single clock in the airport is stopped at half past twelve.
The situation here is dire, but at the Libyan border with Tunisia, it has reached a crisis point. Hundreds of thousands have tried to cross, at a rate of 2,000 per hour. The UN High Commission for Refugees is there, trying to coordinate assistance, and they are publicly calling for help before this turns into a full-blown catastrophe. The people crossing are mostly Egyptians, in a state of panic, suffering from dehydration, and above all, a fear of the unknown, and a lack of information. The British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that the UK will help organize an airlift of Egyptians back to their country, having already announced that it was sending food and blankets.
The big unknown -- exactly why they are fleeing. Is it based on panic or media reports? Fear of the unknown? It's confusing, because having just left Tripoli, we know it is calm inside the city. While Tripoli remains under Colonel Gadhafi's control, there are new reports that his forces have retaken Brega in the east. According to our colleague, BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, who attended the press conference, it was another eccentric performance by the Libyan leader. He arrived at the head of a motorcade, driving himself in a golf cart. And he basked in the attention of the adulating crowd, who cheered and chanted for him.

Wednesday is the anniversary of the day in 1977 when he "handed over power to the people and returned to his tent" after gaining power in a military coup in 1969. In Gadhafi's folklore, this is significant because he keeps insisting that he can't step down because he's not a president or monarch, but merely a symbolic figurehead. It was a similar line of argument that he espoused during our exclusive interview on Monday, when we met with him at a fish restaurant on the coast of the Mediterranean in Tripoli. Wearing his trademark long flowing robes and gold-rimmed aviator sunglasses, he laughed at the suggestion that he had fortunes stashed overseas, saying he possessed nothing but his famous Bedouin tent. "If they can find it," he said of the alleged foreign assets, "they take half and I will keep the other half." He condemned those countries that had frozen Libyan assets, saying: "The assets are the assets of the Libyan nation...I am the asset of Libya, not the American dollar."
He also insisted that he never ordered aerial assaults on Libyan protesters, but only authorized bombing of ammunitions dumps to avoid weapons falling into the hands of "terrorists," as he refers to the forces that have taken over Benghazi and other cities in the east of Libya. In fact, just Monday, two fighter jets attempted to bomb a large ammunition depot in Ajdabiya, a city in the east.

At Wednesday's press conference, he again insisted that he will not launch a scorched-earth campaign by torching his own oil installations. He told us he would never attack the oil fields, but warned that "the
terrorists might try to." He did speak of freedom of the press and freedom of speech, the first time he has acknowledged any of the protesters' demands, even obliquely. But he continues to blame the violence in his country on Al Qaeda, as he told us as well. "I'm surprised," he said Monday, "that we have an alliance with the west to fight Al Qaeda and now that we are fighting terrorists, they have abandoned us."

As I landed in London Wednesday, I found two very different versions of the Libyan experience as I spoke to my fellow travelers in line at the airport. While I spoke to one of the men standing next to
me, who was sent by the Gadhafi regime to study in London, it was as if we were still in Tripoli. "He's good," he told me of Gadhafi. "We just want peace." But another man I spoke with, who had long ago immigrated to England, said that Gadhafi had done nothing for the country -- that education was failing, there was no infrastructure or jobs for young people; nothing worthy of the billions of dollars Libya earns in oil revenues. He said he hoped Gadhafi would be gone soon but felt that Gadhafi would never "surrender."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Christiane Amanpour in Libya: Gadhafi Doles Out Cash to the People


(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- I've just returned from the center of Tripoli, Libya, after a drive around town.  Like all journalists here, my team and I were driven and accompanied by government employees, but they did take us precisely where I asked to go.

What we found was normal traffic in the streets, people walking, or at cafes and restaurants.  At just about every bank we saw, there were long lines of men and women waiting for the cash handouts that Col. Moammar Gadhafi had just announced.

The leader was giving each family 500 dinars, the equivalent of about $450.  For most people here, that covers salary for a month or two.

As we walked up with our cameras to talk to them, many burst into pro-Gadhafi chants once they realized we were visiting journalists.  They were friendly, although some complained to the government minder with us that they had been waiting in line for hours and still had not received their handouts. There were also lines at local bakeries.

We went to Green Square, the site of Gadhafi's most recent speech atop the ramparts of the old city.  That's when he accused anti-government protestors of having taken hallucinogenic pills.

One woman we talked to at the Square Monday repeated that charge, and said she had been educated in America.  She told us that Libyans are happy with Gadhafi as their leader, and that their country is a happy and peaceful one.

Another English-speaking man told us that while "the tension is still so thick you could cut it with a knife," things had died down since this time last week, when, he acknowledged, the sound of gunfire could be heard in Tripoli.

At the Tripoli central hospital, the city's main accident and emergency hospital, the head of the emergency unit told my colleague from the London Sunday Times that he had received nine bodies after Friday's anti-government protests in town.

He said all were gunshot victims, mostly to the chest.  The Times talked to family members of the victims at the hospital, angry that protesters had been met by live fire.

But the central allegation against Gadhafi and his regime is that he ordered aerial bombardments and helicopter gunships against protesters.  This has inflamed international anger and the United States and its allies have got a new U.N. resolution that imposes sanctions, a freeze on Gadhafi family assets, a travel ban, an arms embargo, and provision to refer possible war crimes to the International Criminal Court.

In our effort to hunt down evidence of bombings, evidence we also tried to find in Tripoli from the sky on a helicopter tour offered by the government here, which is desperate to prove to outsiders that allegations of aerial bombardment amounts to a "hostile media campaign."

From that vantage point, we could not see any evidence of damage from an air assault here in the capital, even as we flew over the areas where last week's protests started.

But when we got back to our hotel, we did hear some gunfire, and our colleagues from the BBC report another anti-Gadhafi demonstration there -- in Tripoli's Tajoora neighborhood. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Libyan Opposition Moving Closer to Tripoli

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GENEVA) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conducted high-level talks in Geneva with foreign ministers from Europe on Monday, pressing for tough sanctions on the Libyan government in an effort to force the ouster of leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

The discussions occurred at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The European Union also declared sanctions against the North African country, reinforcing the United Nations Security Council's resolution passed against Gadhafi's regime on Saturday.

The first humanitarian aid from the west is on its way to Libya from France. The United States has also pledged to be ready with aid.

The promises come as the opposition appears to be gaining ground in its fight to end Gadhafi's 41-year-rule. The European Union said that Gadhafi has lost control of most of the country's oil and gas fields. Over the weekend, the opposition's control moved closer to Tripoli, Gadhafi's stronghold.

In Zawiyah, just 30 miles west of Tripoli, civilian opponents and some military defectors claim they've been in control for several days. Protesters in the suburbs of Tripoli chanted, '"The blood of martyrs won't go to waste," the BBC reported.

Gadhafi has attempted to appease those living in the capital by offering $400 per family. There were reports of long lines at banks in Tripoli with people seeking the money. Food prices continue to skyrocket with rice prices at $40 for a 10-pound bag.

In exclusive interviews with ABC News' Christiane Amanpour, Gadhafi's sons said their father has no plans to leave Libya. Saif Gadhafi denied reports of helicopter gunships firing on people and reports of Libyan Air Force pilots defecting, jettisoning their planes rather than carry out orders to bomb citizens. When asked about President Obama's call for Col. Gadhafi to step down, Saif Gadhafi responded, "First of all, it's not American business. Do you think this is a solution? Of course not." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Exclusive: ABC's Amanpour Interviews Gadhafi's Son

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi, in an exclusive interview with ABC's This Week host Christiane Amanpour, insists Libya is calm, the military has not attacked any civilians and reports of Libyan diplomats abandoning their posts is simply 'miscommunication.'

There is a "big big gap between reality and the media reports" Gadhafi said. "The whole south is calm. The west is calm. The middle is calm. Even part of the east."

What will happen to him and his father – will they stay or go?

"Listen: nobody is leaving this country. We live here, we die here," he insisted. "This is our country. The Libyans are our people. And for myself, I believe I am doing the right thing."

Until civil unrest in Libya exploded over the last weeks, Gadhafi, the second oldest of Col. Moammar Gadhafi's children, had been seen as the western face of the regime. Educated at the London School of Economics, he promoted Libya's potential, telling The New York Times in February 2010 that Libya "can be the Dubai of North Africa."

But, a year later, his emphasis was a bit different. He sat down with Amanpour in central Tripoli to answer tough questions about the future of Libya.

"The President of the U.S. has called on your father to step down. How do you feel about that?" Amanpour asked.

"It's not an American business, that's number one," said Gadhafi, who was dressed casually as he spoke with Amanpour. “Second, do they think this is a solution? Of course not."

"He says if a person can only keep control by using force, then legitimacy is gone," Amanpour pressed.

"Right, but what happened? We didn't use force. Second, we still have people around us," he said.

Amanpour noted the extensive reports of attacks on civilians.

"Show me a single attack, show me a single bomb," he said. "The Libyan air force destroyed just the ammunition sites," Gadhafi said. "That's it."

"What do you make of your diplomats in Washington and New York who are resigning because they can't abide this policy?" Amanpour asked Gadhafi.

"I talked to him. You know, we are the victims of miscommunication," he said. "And they were under the influence of a strong media campaign, well-organized. So, you know, they are human beings at the end."

"But they've defected," Amanpour said.

"Not defected, none of them defect. They were so moved because they--"

Amanpour interrupted. "But they are calling on your father to step down," she said.

"C'mon, they are employees working for the government," Gadhafi said. "It's not their business."

Gadhafi emphasized that the most important issue for him was to correct what he saw as the falsehood that forces backed by his father had attacked civilians.

"The most important issue for us is show me a single evidence that the Libyan army or the Libyan government bombed civilians," he said, slicing the air with his index finger. "I challenge the whole international community to give me a single evidence."

Asked about the potential of international sanctions and the freezing of some of his family's assets, Ghadafi said, "First of all, we don't have money outside. We are a very modest family and everybody knows that. And we are laughing when they say you have money in Europe or Switzerland or something. C'mon, it's a joke."

And what about all those western-orient reforms he tried to implement?

"I worked very hard to implement many ideas, but things went wrong," he said.

"So now we are [in] a difficult situation," Gadhafi added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Freedom Fever' Spreading in Middle East

Photo Courtesy - ABC NewsReporters Notebook

(NEW YORK) -- As protests unfold Thursday in the Middle East, we are seeing a freedom fever spreading across the region that will not easily be broken.

It is happening for many different reasons in different parts of the world but with an important similarity: the demand for freedom.

They have shaken off the shackles of fear.  They are coming out.  How far it goes in each different place is uncertain at the moment.  But unless the militaries do come in and really crack down, these protests will continue.

In Iran, you saw on Monday that they did crack down but nonetheless they came out in the hundreds of thousands.

In Bahrain, we are seeing protests that have been at times quite violent.  And while Bahrain's protests are similar to Egypt, there are some important differences.

In Bahrain, we have a Shiite majority that is demonstrating for more rights.  For many years they have been living under a Sunni minority in power and what they want are more economic rights, more rights to be in a position of power.

The Bahraini royal family is Sunni and very close to the U.S.  In fact, the U.S. 5th fleet is there.  Bahrain is pro-Western and they had just recently been touting their progress in parliamentary and free assembly.  The Sunni king even went on television and allowed people to protest peacefully; so this crackdown is quite bad.

Over in Libya, where 14 people are already dead in protests this week and demonstrators are calling for a day of rage in several cities, again we see a leader who has been there for the last 40 years -- Moammar Gadhafi.

And then, in Yemen, we are seeing the seventh consecutive day of protests.  There, they did get the attention of the president -- another key U.S. ally in the fight against al Qaeda.  He said he wouldn't run again for election and his son wouldn't run.  But now protesters are upping their demands for regime change.

Will we see regime change as we saw last week in Egypt?  It is too soon to say.

These countries are different, but by and large the protesters are there for the same reason: freedom, the ability to assemble, speak and choose their leaders.

The crucial differentiator will be, as ever, the willingness of the authorities to crackdown and crush the dissent. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egypt: Hosni Mubarak Steps Down as President

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Egypt's embattled President Hosni Mubarak abruptly stepped down as president, ending his 30-year-reign, and Egyptian armed forces will take over the leadership of the country, vice president Omar Suleiman announced Friday.

Crowds gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square erupted into loud cheers, chanting "Egypt is free," as the historic announcement was made.

"My fellow citizens. In this difficult time that the country is going through, the president Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has decided to relieve himself of his position as president and the Supreme military council has taken control of the state's affairs. May God protect us," Suleiman said during his somber one-minute announcement on TV.

Mubarak left the presidential palace in Cairo earlier Friday as protesters kept the pressure on the government to force Mubarak out of office.

Sources tell ABC News that the 82-year-old president has gone to an estate he owns in Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town on the Red Sea about 250 miles from the protests in Cairo. Mubarak told ABC News last week he may eventually retire to the resort town, but vowed never to leave Egypt.

A senior Egyptian official told ABC News Mubarak's departure from the palace was intended to be symbolic, as well a visual withdrawal from the political process after having handed over most of his authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman. But the move does not preclude him from returning or inhibit his ability to oversee constitutional amendments, the official said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egypt: Vice President Offers Concessions to Muslim Brotherhood

Photo Courtesy - Tara Todras-Whitehill-Pool/Getty ImagesREPORTER'S NOTEBOOK

(CAIRO) -- Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman met with representatives from Egypt's opposition groups on Sunday, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest party.

Egypt state television is reporting that Suleiman is offering the groups concessions, including freedom of the press, term limits to the presidency and the end of the country's emergency law.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed in Egypt in 1954, did not send high-level leaders to the meetings, but said they agreed to go to test the government's intentions: to see if it is serious about reforms or if this is just an act.

After the meeting, I spoke with Dr. Khalil el-Gazar of the Muslim Brotherhood high council.

El-Gazar said the Muslim Brotherhood "were surprised" during Sunday's historic first meeting with the government when Suleiman stood for a minute to respect those killed in this revolution.  El-Gazar told me Suleiman said the government was wrong for what they did in the uprising and in the past.

During the meeting, Suleiman promised to stop harassing anti-government protesters and not pursue or punish them.  This may help thin the crowds in Liberation Square, because many are afraid to leave in case the government hunts them down.

El-Gazar said Egypt will keep its peace treaty with Israel in the future "because this is of value to the people of Egypt.  We don't want to break something of value to the people of Egypt."  He also said there must be peace in the Palestinian state.

Responding to U.S. fears of the Muslim Brotherhood, el-Gazar said, "We have good feelings towards the Western countries, but Islamophobia spread all over the Western countries," he said.  "We are astonished.  Why?"

In my exclusive interview with President Hosni Mubarak earlier this week, he blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the violence in Tahrir Square during the protests.

El-Gazar countered that claim, saying that the Muslim Brotherhood are not fundamentalists, are not seeking a religious revolution and are not seeking the presidency themselves.  He said it was the young people who led the revolution in Egypt, not the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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