The Last Word: Saif Al-Islam Al-Qadhafi; the Politics of Blackmail

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Byline: Christopher Dickey

Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi (his preferred spelling of a name with many variations in English) is the best-known son of Muammar Kaddafi, the Libyan ruler once called "the most dangerous man in the world." Lately, Kaddafi has emerged as a newfound friend of the west, renouncing terror, giving up weapons of mass destruction, and opening Libya for business. Qadhafi, 35, has no official post in government, yet has played a key role in building Libya's ties to the West. Last week he spoke to NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey about that role and the recent deal to free five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian intern who had been accused of spreading HIV to children in a Libyan hospital. In return for their freedom, Libya got millions of dollars and a nuclear cooperation deal. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: What role did you play in the prisoner deal?

Qadhafi: I was the main negotiator. I laid down the roadmap in order to find an exit from this issue ... And then the Europeans said, "Well, we are not happy with that roadmap." But I think finally they seem happy now.

French First Lady Cecilia Sarkozy was in Libya for the release and flew with the prisoners to Bulgaria. What role did she play?

She is the last person to come interfere in that issue and she is the person who took the medics with her back home. She's very lucky. Lots of people tried in the past.

What did the French offer that nobody else did?

You know, we are talking about hundreds of millions of euros to support the health sector of Libya. And it's not just about money, but about management and technical support ... to run the hospital, to manage the hospital with the French staff and to link it to the French hospitals.

And the Europeans had not offered this?

They offered, but at a very limited scale.

And how about the nuclear facility?

Yeah, the nuclear also ... We are going to buy a nuclear reactor from France. It's a very huge one and very expensive.

How much, more or less?

Oh, I don't know. Billions ... It's a huge reactor ... And the French [also] managed to bring [us] money in order to pay the families [of more than 400 HIV-infected children, most likely the victims of bad hospital hygiene].

People say that money came from Qatar ... .

It's not our business to ask where the money [came] from.

Can we put a dollar figure on the package?

We are talking not less than [euro]300 million for the hospital in Benghazi. For the families it's about another [euro]400 million, something like this. …