Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi talked to the SPIEGEL about his friendship with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the ‘youthful exuberance’ of his sons, and why he thinks Switzerland is a mafia.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Gadhafi, for years you repeatedly got into shouting matches with the Western world before making your peace with arch-enemy America four years ago. Now you have declared a holy war on tiny Switzerland, of all countries. Why?
Gadhafi: Switzerland is one country among many; sometimes you have trouble with one country, sometimes with another. We never had difficulties with Switzerland before. We used to appreciate it as a holiday destination. We used to appreciate its companies and its watches. But then Switzerland began to treat us badly. For example, the minaret issue and the publishing of nasty portrayals of the Prophet. It was necessary to draw a line with the Swiss. That is what I did in my speech in Benghazi to mark the Prophet’s birthday.
SPIEGEL: And now Swiss national Max Göldi, who has absolutely nothing to do with this, has to pay for your anger against Switzerland? A man whose visa allegedly expired, who has not been able to leave Libya for nearly two years and has been in prison for months. Why are you doing nothing for him?
Gadhafi: Only the courts can decide on this.
SPIEGEL: Do you mean to tell us that you don’t have the power to pardon him?
Gadhafi: This is a matter for the legal system. But I’m talking now about Switzerland. Switzerland is a state that stands outside the international community. It is not bound by any EU regulations. It is good that it joined the United Nations in 2002, but the whole time before that it was not a member. Why? It wanted to stand above international law. And that has made Switzerland into a mafia.
SPIEGEL: Whatever you may now say about Switzerland, previously it didn’t bother you in the least. You did business with the country — your company Tamoil Suisse has dozens of filling stations in Switzerland.
Gadhafi: Money is laundered on a grand scale in Switzerland. Anyone who robs a bank later invests the money in Switzerland. Anyone who evades taxes goes to Switzerland. Anyone who wants to deposit money in secret accounts goes to Switzerland. And a large number of owners of such secret accounts have died under mysterious circumstances.
SPIEGEL: Excuse me?
Gadhafi: Yes, Switzerland is behind it all.
SPIEGEL: Don’t Libyans also have secret accounts in Switzerland?
Gadhafi: Yes, there are also Libyans who have such accounts, and many of them have also died in unexplained ways. All around the world, the families of these people are going to sue Switzerland. And one more thing: Switzerland is the only country that allows euthanasia. Why does only Switzerland do that?
SPIEGEL: Medical euthanasia is also legal in the Netherlands. And, it cannot go unmentioned that Libya has previously had citizens killed abroad who were said to be disloyal.
Gadhafi: But we are talking now about Switzerland. It is possible that among the Libyans who you are asking about — and who died abroad — there were also some who died because they had secret accounts in Switzerland.
SPIEGEL: And you are seriously maintaining that Switzerland as a state ordered the killing of these people?
Gadhafi: The investigations will show this. And this brings me back once again to the phenomenon of assisted suicide. A large number of people have been deliberately eliminated under this pretext. Switzerland maintains that these individuals expressed the desire to take their lives. But in reality it was done to get at their money. More than 7,000 people have died like this. I am thus calling for Switzerland to be dissolved as a state. The French part should go to France, the Italian part to Italy and the German part to Germany. Even Ayman al-Zawahiri …
SPIEGEL: … Osama bin Laden’s deputy …
Gadhafi: … took al-Qaida’s money to Switzerland, where it is still located. Switzerland finances terrorism.
SPIEGEL: Once again: Even if all of this were as you say — why did this never bother you before?
Gadhafi: We had already noticed that money is laundered in Switzerland and people die in unexplained ways. But recently Switzerland has given itself away.
‘Switzerland Respects no Laws’
SPIEGEL: Doesn’t your anger with Switzerland in reality stem from the fact that your son Hannibal was arrested by police in Geneva in July 2008 and accused of beating up two people in his employment?
Gadhafi: The thing with Hannibal has been nothing but a source of enjoyment for Switzerland. This is a gang that doesn’t care about law and order. The way they treated Hannibal proves that Switzerland respects no laws. A man employed by my son brought accusations against him so that he could remain in Switzerland. They can lock him up — but please do so within the law. The police acted like a gang. They were dressed in plain clothes and they broke down the door, put my son in chains and brought his wife to a hospital. They left his daughter, who is one or two years old, alone back at the hotel. Then they put him handcuffed in a cold storage room, and at times in a bathroom — exactly the way al-Qaida treats its victims. An act of terrorism.
SPIEGEL: According to the Swiss authorities, something entirely different happened in Geneva. They say that your son beat up two people there.
Gadhafi: No, no. Nothing like that happened. Switzerland has not said that to me nor to anyone else. I’m hearing this now for the first time.
SPIEGEL: But similar things have also happened elsewhere. Your sons have also run into trouble with the police in London, Paris and Germany. What do you say to them when something like this happens?
Gadhafi: These are cases of youthful exuberance. In France, for example, my son allegedly drove through a red light. That is normal and nothing out of the ordinary.
SPIEGEL: Allow us to ask once again: Are you really hearing today for the first time that your son allegedly severely beat two people?
Gadhafi: Yes, I’m hearing this now for the first time. All I heard was that the employee complained that Hannibal and his family had mistreated him. I oppose such behavior, whether it is in Switzerland, in Libya or elsewhere. What I am protesting against is the way action is being taken against him.
SPIEGEL: While we are talking about your sons — which of the seven is closest to you?
Gadhafi: I love all of my sons equally. The question of which of them I prefer doesn’t even arise.
SPIEGEL: In Europe it was presumed for a long time that your second-born, Saif al-Islam, would be your successor.
Gadhafi: I am not a king; I don’t need a successor to the throne. (Laughs.) In Libya the people rule.
SPIEGEL: Your son told us that, as a matter of principle, the office of revolutionary leader cannot be inherited.
Gadhafi: That is correct.
SPIEGEL: Saif al-Islam has negotiated in a number of hostage-taking situations and is respected abroad. Even if he doesn’t become your successor, what plans do you have for him?
Gadhafi: He has studied and is well-read; he is a man of the world and has reached an age where he requires no more help from me.
SPIEGEL: He has criticized you on occasion, for example, in the case of the Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who spent eight years in prison because they allegedly deliberately infected Libyan children with HIV. Saif al-Islam admitted that the women had been tortured.
Gadhafi: The investigations have produced other results. I still believe that there was a conspiracy to kill the Libyan children.
SPIEGEL: You have recently been to Europe on a number of occasions. Who do you see as your closest friend among the European heads of state and government?
Gadhafi: My closest friend in Europe is Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, but a few others are also close to me.
SPIEGEL: What do you think of German Chancellor Angela Merkel?
Gadhafi: She is a strong personality. More like a man than a woman. But I have never had a conversation with her.
SPIEGEL: Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schröder visited you in Libya. Would you accept an invitation to Germany?
Gadhafi: Of course I would accept such an invitation.
‘No One is Talking about Throwing Jews into the Sea’
SPIEGEL: In recent years, thousands of people have drowned as they tried to flee from Africa across the Mediterranean to Europe. What can you do to help end this tragedy?
Gadhafi: The European Union should annually pay Libya €5 billion ($6.6 billion) via a special fund to combat illegal immigration. We have a precisely calculated plan to solve this problem.
SPIEGEL: What kind of plan is this?
Gadhafi: We will organize housing and employment projects in the refugees’ African countries of origin so they remain there. We will do the same for those who are already in Libya, give them a place to live and create jobs for them. Furthermore, we are bolstering our border security on land and water with modern radar equipment and vehicles.
SPIEGEL: Thanks to its oil revenues, Libya is currently more financially sound than some EU countries. How much does your country actually earn every year from oil?
Gadhafi: I don’t know exactly. (Turns to an aide.) But it could be around $50 billion.
SPIEGEL: Why don’t you raise this amount yourself?
Gadhafi: We are not going to pay for Europe! After all, these are things that benefit Europe.
SPIEGEL: How are your relations with the US?
SPIEGEL: What exactly prompted you to make your surprising turnaround with the Americans?
Gadhafi: The big problem between us was Lockerbie …
SPIEGEL: The bomb attack on an American Boeing 747, which a former agent of the Libyan intelligence service was found guilty of carrying out.
Gadhafi: … but we have solved this.
SPIEGEL: That was back under former US President George W. Bush.
Gadhafi: And then came President Obama.
SPIEGEL: What do you think of Obama? Many Arabs say that he has already failed with his Middle East policies.
Gadhafi: When we speak here of ‘failure,’ it is not Obama’s failure, but rather due to internal American crises. Obama has made no mistakes. In fact, he has achieved a great victory with his health reform, he is sticking to the withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, and he opposes weapons of mass destruction.
SPIEGEL: If you were to advise Obama: How should he proceed with Iran?
Gadhafi: He is taking a very reasonable approach. He is using diplomacy, is not threatening to use violence, military nor terror, as the others did — Reagan, for instance.
SPIEGEL: And how do you view Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
Gadhafi: He is cooperative, a revolutionary, but not aggressive. And he believes that he is right. Why are the Israelis not kept in check by the West? Why do these campaigns always only focus on Syria, Iraq and Iran? Why is Israel omitted when everyone of course knows that Israel has nuclear weapons? If Obama wants to be successful, he has to start by controlling the Israelis and eliminating Israeli weapons of mass destruction, and then he will also be successful in Iran and throughout the entire region.
SPIEGEL: Ahmadinejad says that Israel should be wiped off the map. You on the other hand have spoken for years in favor of a state in which Israelis and Palestinians would live together.
Gadhafi: I don’t think that Ahmadinejad means the violent destruction of Israel when he says this. I think he is thinking of a new democratic state structure to replace the current state of Israel — on the territory of what is geographically Palestine. No one is talking about throwing Jews into the sea.
SPIEGEL: You always supported German unity, even at the height of the Cold War, and in the end you proved to be correct. But you have been proved wrong in some of your other predictions, for example, that there will never be “an Islamic nuclear bomb.” What gives you such a sense of confidence in your frequent predictions?
Gadhafi: I look at the facts and calculate the consequences — and when it came to Germany, it was the same as everywhere in the world: Two and two make four. There is no other answer.
SPIEGEL: Where do you get your facts? Do you watch television? Do you read books?
Gadhafi: I get most of them from the Internet. I constantly sit at my computer. I read in Arabic, but now it is of course also possible to immediately get translations from English.
SPIEGEL: And, based on these facts, what do you predict for the Middle East?
Gadhafi: Either the Dimona nuclear facility in Israel will be removed, and a democratic state for everyone will emerge with no differences between Palestinians and Israelis, or war and strife will continue. Then Israel will be the loser and will disappear like a grain of sand in the sea.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Gadhafi, thank you for this interview.
Interview conducted by Volkhard Windfuhr and Bernhard Zand