The U.S. Ambassador to Libya Discusses the Situation in Libya on Radio Sawa

Radio Sawa conducted an interview with the US ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz to discuss major challenges and threats facing Libya and the role of the U.S. in building civil society in the country.  The following are excerpts from the interview.

On the U.S. role in building Libya’s civil society

“We are willing to go as far and fast as the Libyans request.  We have a very big interest in building civil society.  It has been a part of our agenda certainly in the Middle East for the last several years.  So to the extent that we are asked to help them in developing the civil society, I think, we will be very eager to do that. “  

On the coming threats facing Libya  

“I think when you have the proliferation of arms, you have an Al Qaeda in the Maghreb threat that has never dissipated and they are looking certainly for chaos and for opportunities.  When you have revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt that are not quite totally stable yet, and when you have the continuing absence of Moammar Gadhafi in a court of law, there is a possibility that things could go wrong.  But as I have said, let us give the Libyans a chance to move their society forward and have a political process.  They have never had one.  And so there are going to be setbacks, but to say that [Libya] has a chance of becoming Somalia, I think it is too early in the game to be so pessimistic.”   

On the future Islamists’ role in Libya

“The Islamists will have a voice in Libya.  Libya is an Islamic country.  It is a very conservative Islamic country.  The people previously, while they are conservative, they have not tended toward radical Islamic theology.  So I don’t think that they are in the position to give up one dictator and to replace it with another kind of Islamic caliphate of some kind.  If the Islamists are able to enunciate a moderate political platform that is acceptable to Libyan people, then the Libyan people will decide that they will have a voice or they will not have a voice. “  

On the U.S.’s skepticism of the role of Abdel Hakim Belhaj as threatening  

“I don’t know whether we will constitute a threat.  He has shown himself to be a very powerful and influential leader.  We hope that he will do what is required when the national government is formed.  But to consider him a threat at this particular point is overstating the issue.  He is one of the influential people whom we are watching as the developments happen.”