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THE SITUATION ROOM
Defying Gadhafi's Crackdown; U.S. Moves to Sanction Libya; Evacuees Describe 'Carnage' in Libya; U.N. Warns Libya Crackdown is Escalating
Aired February 25, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Much happening now, breaking news -- some Americans safe at last from the violence in Libya. A charter ferry just arrived in Malta carrying evacuees and their horror stories about Moammar Gadhafi's crackdown.
The Libyan leader is trying to show the world he's still in charge, even as the United States moves to slap him with some new sanctions.
How much farther might the Obama administration go to prevent more bloodshed?
And a school district votes to fight almost every single teacher -- almost 2,000 in all. This hour, drastic situations in the state budget wars and children's education on the line.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, we're getting new -- a new view into the protests and the violence in Libya. Several hundred people get off that U.S. chartered ferry that just docked in Malta a little while ago. A chartered aircraft also left Libya today, bound for Turkey, with Americans on board. Stand by for some of the terrifying stories they are now telling all of us.
Another late development, the United States says it's moving forward with sanctions against Moammar Gadhafi's regime. The U.S. Embassy in Libya already has been closed. A defiant Gadhafi appearing in Tripoli today with crowds that supposedly support him. But witnesses report fierce clashes between security forces and protesters in the Libyan capital. The U.N. began a meeting on the crisis just a little while ago. One U.N. official says Gadhafi's crackdown is escalating and thousands may have been killed or injured.
Our correspondents in Libya and across the region covering this breaking story as only CNN can.
Let's begin this hour, though, with more on more on -- more on the Americans and the other evacuees who finally have arrived in Malta, in the Mediterranean just a little while ago, on that ferry boat from Tripoli.
CNN's Ivan Watson is joining us now live from Malta. What are the folks there saying -- Ivan?
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
I want to introduce you to Yusra Tekbali, who just arrived on this boat, a 26-year-old American writer of Libyan descent. And you just arrived with eight of your family members.
How do you feel setting foot on dry land here in Malta after fleeing Libya?
YUSRA TEKBALI, EVACUEE: Well, I feel relieved to be off that boat after three days. I feel -- I feel safer. But at the same time, my heart is completely in Libya right now. I feel totally torn. I feel for the people who are still there and who didn't get a chance to -- to get out because it -- it's chaos.
WATSON: What kind of things were you seeing there?
What drove your family to run away finally?
TEKBALI: Well, we were in our house for four days without leaving our house, because we heard gunshots outside -- machine guns, I'm pretty sure; protesters clashing with police; stories we were hearing from friends about complete massacres of their neighborhoods, things like that. But I think what really, really just kind of drilled us to leave was the -- the night that Gadhafi gave his speech and -- and threatened --
WATSON: Saif al-Islam, the son, or?
TEKBALI: No, no. Colonel Gadhafi, the -- when he gave his speech and he -- and he threatened -- I mean his speech -- and to hear him say he's going to come house to house and door-to-door if we don't stop what -- if the Libyan people don't stop rising up against him, I mean those aren't empty threats. And when you have African mercenaries in your country and you have people hired to kill to do that, you can't take that lightly.
And I think the world -- Libyans know what -- what this regime is capable of. But I think, for the first time, the world is actually seeing it. And that's really what -- what drove us, I think, out. And just because, you know, every day, the situation was getting worse and worse.
WATSON: Did you ever think you'd see anything like this take place in Libya?
TEKBALI: No. And -- and, on one part, I'm so happy because I never thought I would see Libyans expressing themselves this way. I mean for so long, like, I've never even been able to even express myself with what it means to be a Libyan, just because people are so quiet about -- about everything that's going on around them and about who they are. And so to see Libyans -- and these were Libyans born and raised in Libya and some of them have never left -- rising up and finally demanding a better life, I never thought I would see that, never. And even when Egypt and Tunisia was breaking out, I was like, there's going to be, you know, little scuffles here. But 500 -- or 50,000 people in Milazi (ph) and then just -- it was so quiet -- it was so quick and so -- I never thought I would see it.
And I just really think that the world needs to support the Libyan people because they are risking so much. And there are families who, in Tripoli, have lost more than, you know, one son. And I just think the world needs to really listen to the Libyan people. And it's not easy to rise up and say anything in Libya. I know, because I'm a journalist. And I've been threatened for even writing about Libya. So imagine the threat that they face.
WATSON: And family members and dear loved ones left behind to face God knows what now?
TEKBALI: Yes. Yes. And I can only, you know, pray for them and -- and hope that the situation -- I mean, we don't even know if we're going to be going back to Libya. I don't know if I'm going -- I don't -- we don't know. So I feel especially bad for my mom who, A, has to leave her, you know, her country like that, like a refugee, and for having to leave her family behind. And, you know, my brother and my mom, they're just like crying, because they don't know if they're going to -- we just don't know what's going to happen so.
WATSON: Thank you, Yusra -- Wolf, you're hearing fear and uncertainty and, amid all of that, a glimmer of hope, as well, from -- from Yusra Tekbali, just one of more than 300 people who have just emerged off of this ferry boat behind me. They are a fraction of the tens of thousands of foreigners, especially, that are trying to fleet country.
And we can't forget about the Libyans that are left behind in a situation that is bloody and has seen loss of life and -- and could get much, much worse -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ivan Watson on the scene for us.
We're going to check back with you.
Thank you very much.
And thank that woman, as well. Opposition forces now in control of some key cities in Libya appear to be holding their ground despite reports of mass killings, arbitrary arrests and the torture of some protesters.
CNN's senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is on the ground in Benghazi, one of the first places to slip from the Gadhafis' grip.
Let's bring in Ben right now -- Ben, state TV in Libya, they're trying to get some messages across.
Tell us what they're trying to suggest to the folks in Libya.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it seems that Moammar Gadhafi is trying to use a bit of a carrot and a stick approach. On the stick side, of course, he went to Green Square, the main square in Tripoli, where he said that he would consider opening the arsenals of the state and handing out weapons so people can fight against the anti-Gadhafi movement.
On the carrot side, apparently, according to Libyan state TV, Mr. Gadhafi is offering every Libyan family $400 and is also offering to raise state salaries by as much as 150 percent.
Obviously, he's desperate to win some sort of public support. But from what we see here on the ground, certainly in Eastern Libya, here in Benghazi, where we saw thousands and thousands of people braving some very cold, wet and rainy weather to protest against the regime of Moammar Gadhafi and, also, what we saw in Tripoli, where people tried yet again to protest in the streets against the regime, it doesn't appear that many people are paying much attention to the carrot part of the message. But they're feeling the stick -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I think it's fair to say that most people where you are -- and certainly around the world -- think that Gadhafi may have hours, days, at most a few weeks left. But I wonder if you have a better sense.
Is it just hours or days or could he last a few more weeks?
WEDEMAN: It's really difficult to tell, Wolf. Certainly, if you look at the events that have happened since February 17th, when this really kicked off, it's gone at an amazing speed. The eastern half of the country is now under the control of the anti-Gadhafi forces. And we see that he's -- he's besieged, essentially, in his capital by protesters who, despite the ample use of violence by government forces, continue to try to protest in the streets.
I don't think he's got a lot of time left. Most Libyans here in Benghazi don't think he has a lot of time left.
But getting back to the stick side of things, Mr. Gadhafi has never hesitated to use the stick. And he may bring out a few more before he goes.
BLITZER: We're showing our viewers, Ben, some new video that you and your team just sent -- sent to us, huge crowds gathering there. Clearly, they're moving against Gadhafi in -- in very dramatic ways.
But is that what we're still seeing, a lot of people, especially on a Friday, gathering and chanting anti-Gadhafi slogans?
WEDEMAN: Oh, certainly. I mean that seems to be the -- the main activity here in Benghazi at moment, is going out to that courthouse and demonstrating in the street.
But, you know, there's a geographical situation that makes it difficult for these people, who are enthusiastically and ardently anti-Gadhafi, to actually make a difference -- a difference in Tripoli. It's more than a thousand kilometers from Benghazi to Tripoli. And it's just sort of technically, logistically, very difficult for them, should they so desire, to take the fight to the Libyan capital.
But we are hearing that some of the villages and towns around Tripoli are trying to organize it -- organize forces to go into the Libyan capital to confront the Libyan Army, the Libyan security forces and, also, the mercenaries that are participating in this fight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Ben.
We're going to check back with you.
Ben Wedeman on the ground for us in Libya.
Up next, the White House now responding more forcefully to the crisis in Libya.
What's going on?
We'll go there.
And fears that Moammar Gadhafi could attack protesters with one of the most terrifying weapons in his arsenal. We're talking about chemical weapons with a slow and painful burn. They kill. We'll have details. Stand by.
BLITZER: As we told you, a U.S. charter flight also made it out of Libya today, landing just a little while ago in Istanbul, Turkey.
We want to talk to some of the evacuees who just landed.
One of them is named Abdul.
He's from Ohio.
Abdul, thanks very much for joining us.
You asked us not to mention your last name, I assume because you still have relatives in Libya.
But tell us what it was like, the final few hours of your stay in Libya, before you got out of there?
ADUL, LIBYA EVACUEE: Well, it was very, very scary. All of these (INAUDIBLE) because the people right now in Libya. There is a lot of people that have been killed today, according to my friends. I called and talked to some people on the phone. There's a lot of people who have been killed today and have been killed over the last week. And there is just a mess -- a big (INAUDIBLE). And no human being can understand what he is doing. And there is the perception wide like (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: You're saying you saw a massacre unfolding on the streets of Tripoli. You were in Tripoli, I assume. ADUL: Yes, I was -- I was living in Tripoli. And I was in Tripoli. And I seen some and I heard about some. Bullets was just flying all over the place. There were thugs in every street in Tripoli. They are terrifying every citizen, involved in the demonstrations or not. Everybody is scared there's so much going on right now in Tripoli.
BLITZER: Who was doing the killing?
Were they members of the Libyan military, the Libyan police or were they foreign mercenaries who were coming in, hired by Gadhafi to kill people?
ADUL: The -- the people were hired by Gadhafi to do the killing, the mercenaries and some of his paratroopers or whatever (INAUDIBLE) his -- his units. His kids' units. So that's basically what they are doing. There are -- I mean, if you're going in the street, somebody comes in and just boom, boom, boom, boom. I mean that's just it. That's all they can do.
BLITZER: Were they randomly killing people -- men, women, children -- or were they going after specific targets?
ADUL: No. They're going after everybody. If you are in the street, you have to be more -- be careful. You have to be careful.
If you walk in the street, if you're crossing the road and they are coming around in their cars, you might be killed.
BLITZER: Based on what you saw, Abdul, is it your impression that Gadhafi can -- and his sons -- can remain in power much longer or are their days numbered?
ADUL: Very shortly. Very shortly. He has -- he has maybe a day or two. But the problem is we have, he is sitting in his barracks and he has a very heavy machinery (INAUDIBLE) against civilians. Civilians cannot match that.
BLITZER: So if the civilians can't match that, why do you think he only has a day or two left?
ADUL: Well, because everybody is mad. You know, it's a revolt of the people. He might have 4,000 people in Tripoli supporting him and he's sending those people, day and night, out to the public to threaten everybody.
BLITZER: So basically what I hear you saying, Abdul, is that Gadhafi really has no support left, except for the -- a few people who -- who -- who are his henchmen, if you will. Everybody in Libya has turned against him?
ADUL: Yes, sir. You're correct.
BLITZER: Abdul, we're happy you're out of there.
Are you heading back to Ohio right now? ADUL: I'm staying in Turkey for a day or two then I will probably go back to Ohio, I'm sure.
BLITZER: And do you -- you still have family members, I'm -- I'm sure you're worried about your family members still in Libya, is that right?
ADUL: Yes, I do. Most of them are in Benghazi. Benghazi was -- Benghazi was liberated, in the eastern part of Libya. And probably it will be the whole part of Libya very soon. And I say to everybody in Tripoli, stay the course.
BLITZER: Abdul, who is the woman who is standing next to you?
ADUL: That's my wife.
BLITZER: Does she want to say anything?
Ask her if she wants to say anything to our viewers.
ADUL: Do you want to say something?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
ADUL: Do you want to say anything?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just everybody pray for all of these people. It's really a frightening, frightening scene (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: Abdul, good luck to you.
Good luck to your wife, your family.
We wish all of you the -- only, only best.
Thank -- thank goodness you're out of there.
And we only wish the best for the people of Libya right now, because they are in deep, deep danger as a result of what's going on.
We're going to check in with more of these Americans who have just got off that boat -- off that charter plane in Istanbul. And we'll have their stories for you throughout, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Much more of our coverage coming up, right after this.
BLITZER: The Obama White House now says Moammar Gadhafi has zero legitimacy in the eyes of the Libyan people. The United States moving forward with sanctions. And now that Americans have gotten out of the country, at least some Americans -- there are still many other Americans left in Libya right now.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian -- a few hundred Americans are out, Dan.
But there are several thousand still stuck in Libya.
What's the White House saying today?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, Wolf, as you point out, there was concern here at the White House as to what language, what tone was coming from the administration, because of concern for the Americans who were still on the ground. A lot of Americans are out of there. So that's why you're seeing the -- the White House today announcing that they're preparing these unilateral sanctions, although they're not being specific as to what those sanctions are.
In addition to that, the White House having discussions with the UN, and, in particular, with world leaders. You saw the president today reaching out by phone to the prime minister of Turkey.
On Monday, he will be sitting down with U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon.
All of this, of course, focused on the situation in Libya.
And then the Treasury Department reaching out to financial institutions, asking them to scour accounts that might be connected to Libya. This is in an effort to potentially freeze assets, to get Gadhafi's attention, Wolf.
And -- and this coming on a day when the operations of the embassy -- the U.S. Embassy in Libya -- were suspending out of concern for the safety of the people working there.
So this administration coming down hard in terms of some sanctions that it hopes will get Gadhafi's attention.
In addition to that, I'm told by an administration official that you can expect stronger language coming from the president himself now that many of the Americans are out of harm's way -- Wolf.
BLITZER: But Gadhafi is such a loose cannon, a very dangerous guy, as you all know.
How worried are officials at the White House right now that he's going to be just going crazy, even more crazy than he normally is, and just start killing not just hundreds, but thousands of Libyans?
LOTHIAN: Wolf, you bring up a very good point. An administration official telling me, listen, this is not Egypt that we're dealing with here. This is a leader who has shown himself to be very unpredictable. So there is concern about that. And that's why the administration was being very cautious in its tone while these Americans were on the ground.
As to whether or not this will have any impact at all, of course, I said today in the briefing with Jay Carney, I asked, is this really just a crap shoot? They're saying this is the first step. They're hoping that this -- these sanctions will get his attention. But they do have other things on the table, as well, that they hope will bring him back to -- to the table, if you will, if he doesn't heed these sanctions.
BLITZER: Dan Lothian is at White House.
Thank you very much.
Embattled, but still defiant, Moammar Gadhafi is urging his supporters to defend Libya.
How far will an already bloody crackdown go as far as the protesters are concerned?
And look at this -- a pink slip to every teacher in Rhode Island in a public school system there.
What a union leader is saying about the latest turn in the budget process.
BLITZER: After the bad weather delayed a U.S. people, one of those who landed in instability is Joan Polasehik. And I hope I'm pronouncing your name correctly, Joan.
You're the charge at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, is that right?
JOAN POLASEHIK, CHARGE D'AFFAIRES, U.S. EMBASSY IN TRIPOLI: Yes. That's -- yes. That's correct.
BLITZER: All right, so when I say charge, what's your -- what was your job at the United States Embassy in Tripoli?
POLASEHIK: I -- I was running the embassy (INAUDIBLE) departed Tripoli back in December of 2008, as I'm sure you remember, from the WikiLeaks or due to the -- the WikiLeaks problem. So I've been running the mission in his absence since that time.
BLITZER: And so you are a career Foreign Service officer.
You were running the U.S. Embassy, the charge d'affaires.
Tell us what happened.
Is everybody, first of all, out of there?
Have all U.S. diplomats and their family members, support staff, is everyone out of Tripoli right now?
POLASEHIK: Yes. All U.S. direct hire staff and their families have departed Tripoli safely. Thanks. We're -- we're very glad about that.
Unfortunately, there are American citizens who were not able to make it out. We had a number of problems today with our flight. Basically, the sur -- security circumstances in Tripoli radically deteriorated after Friday prayers and it was impossible, I think, for, we think up to 90 citizens who were trying to reach our U.S. government charter at Matiga Air Base to join us. So we still think that there are any -- well, at least 90, possibly more, American citizens who are hoping to get out of Tripoli.
BLITZER: Because I had heard numbers, as many as 6,000 U.S. citizens were living in Libya, many of them dual nationals, but they're U.S. citizens.
BLITZER: Do they want to stay, or are they trying to get out?
POLASEHIK: Right. I really don't know the answer to that question. We don't have a complete registration system of all the American citizens in any country because, of course, it's a voluntary registration system. So we have been tracking just the numbers of people who are looking for help on the way out. So, we do know, for instance, as we were organizing this flighty, that that we had about 110 people in Tripoli who were looking for a way out.
As I mentioned earlier, about 90 were not able to make it out on our flight. So I really don't know.
The needs could be much greater if the security situation continues to deteriorate. A working assumption in the embassy had been that many of our dual citizens, meaning the Libyan-Americans, probably were just in place with their families. But as we've been doing our crisis plans at the embassy, we thought that there could be a lot of similarities to Lebanon, not necessarily politically, but in the fact that also in Lebanon, there's a large population of dual citizens. And then they just start really kind of coming out of woodworks, as it were, and looking for help as the situation gets worse.
So from our perspective, it's really important that the U.S. and other countries continue to work together to put together the transportation means. It took us a lot of effort to organize this flight, and we're really grateful for our partner nations who helped us, including Turkey, for example, that received this flight.
BLITZER: Joan, we've been hearing horrendous stories coming out of Tripoli over the past few days of mass murder conducted by Gadhafi and his henchmen, including foreign mercenaries. You just got out a few hours ago. I'm sure you're the top U.S. diplomat in Tripoli. What can you tell us on a factual basis, how horrible is the murder that's going on in Tripoli right now?
POLASEHIK: Well, that's a really difficult question for me to answer, Wolf, because for the last five days or so, I personally have been hunkered down inside the embassy, not so much for security reasons, but because we've been working around the clock with Washington to try to manage the situation and work to get our citizens out. I can tell you it was I think Saturday night, just about a week ago, that gunfire first started. Our consul in fact called me and said, "Oh, my God, there's a huge firefight right near my house." And so there was sporadic gunfire in Tripoli that night.
The following night, there was very, very serious gunfire, a really quite violent evening that went on until about 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. The following night, again, there was sustained gunfire.
And then there was a lull of several weeks where it was really -- sorry, I'm a little tired -- a lull of a couple of nights where it was very quiet, at least in the area where the embassy is located, which is on the eastern side of town. There was also horrible weather going on then which we think might have kept people from going to the streets. And then, today, as we were getting ready to evacuate our citizens, there was a lot of activity as the Friday morning prayers let out and people took to the streets again.
We actually moved our embassy staff to the airport for this evacuation in two stages, one team to get the American citizens. The second team was the remainder of our staff who had stayed to finish up operations at the embassy and basically lock up the door and leave.
Our first team made it to the airport with no problem. The second team almost got caught in a firefight. So I think we're really lucky that we were able to get out when we did.
I'm very concerned about the fluid and dangerous security situation there. I'm really thinking about all of the people that are still there, especially our Libyan colleagues who are there with their families.
I should note that our Libyan colleagues, during this crisis so far, have been absolutely tremendous in their response to helping the embassy. Our guard force showed up, our drivers showed up, our consular staff, particularly those working on American citizen services showed up.
These people really took their lives in their hands to go through very dangerous parts of town to come and help us, and I'm really humbled by this. And I think it's a sign of the hope, of the future of the U.S.-Libya relationship, because there are such strong ties between our two people.
And as I said, I'm really grateful for everything our Libyan staff has done, and I'm thinking about everybody who is still there, and especially the American citizens who are still there. We have tried really hard to reach out to them.
I know the State Department is working hard with our friends and allies to come up with plans. I understand the Brits are going to run a flight tomorrow, for example. So we'll make a concerted effort to try and get everyone out.
BLITZER: How worried were you, Joan, that you and your staff of diplomats and family members in Tripoli might be taken hostage by Gadhafi's thugs? POLASEHIK: That didn't cross my mind. I was very focused on the situation at hand. As I said, we were working out of the embassy around the clock. Really, many of us were sleeping there throughout the week, and we had not the best security.
For anyone who has visited Tripoli, we don't have the typical fortress America embassy compound. In fact, we had this group of residential villas. So I was a little worried about the security, but as I said, our guards were there.
And it's very interesting that the Libyan government continued to provide security through all of this. I personally have a Libyan -- or had, while I was there -- a Libyan government security detail, and they stayed with me to the bitter end. In fact, they walked me to the gate of the plane, and I found it quite touching in a way that they were concerned about my safety. I mean, not touching, but also reassuring.
So, but as I said, it's a very dangerous and fluid situation. And I have to say there were some times when I was a little bit worried that the Libyan government security presence in front of the embassy, while it was in fact reassuring because it was helpful, also I wondered kind of at what point could that possibly become a target.
So there were a lot of different security considerations at stake. And frankly, I'm personally relieved that we went ahead and made the decision to suspend operations, because it was quite a burden over the last few days being responsible for the safety our staff. And as I said earlier, I'm really thinking about the safety of our Libyan colleagues, and my heart is with them right now.
BLITZER: Our heart is with them as well.
Joan, if you could stand by with us, we're going to speak to somebody in Tripoli right now, and maybe you'll join the conversation, a person we have on the phone named Reda. Only that name we have.
But Reda, are you in Tripoli right now?
REDA: Yes, I am.
BLITZER: Tell us what's going on to the best information you have.
REDA, RESIDENT: (INAUDIBLE) here. At this time, there has been in many places at the same time tons of people being killed here -- my brother -- my two brothers (INAUDIBLE) in the demonstration where they are being shooted by (INAUDIBLE) Gadhafi's troops. It's really horrible here. My two neighbors got killed her, and the situation is unbelievable.
BLITZER: Did you say, Reda, that your brother was killed as well?
REDA: Yes, my two brothers.
BLITZER: Your two brothers were killed.
Are you safe right now? You don't have to tell us obviously where you are. But do you feel safe in Tripoli?
REDA: Right now you can hear just only some shooting sometime. Yes. Honestly, I'm not safe, but you (ph) can't say that now.
BLITZER: Tell us what's going on as far as Gadhafi is concerned. His military, his police, are they in control, or are they betraying him and joining the opposition?
REDA: We hear sometimes that from soldiers and from (INAUDIBLE) joining the protesters, but we (INAUDIBLE) disobedience again if the regime will (ph) do so, because of this disobedience.
BLITZER: What were your two brothers doing when they were killed by Gadhafi's troops?
REDA: They were in civilian demonstration.
BLITZER: There was an actual demonstration in Tripoli and then forces came out and shot and killed them?
BLITZER: As simple as that?
REDA: They were using machineguns. They were using -- and all kinds of Russian guns converted (ph) for heavy firing.
BLITZER: So, just to repeat, your two brothers were killed and you had other family members and friends who were killed as well?
REDA: Yes, my neighbor, too.
BLITZER: Pardon? Your neighbors were killed as well. Were you able for your brothers to get the bodies and bury your brothers?
REDA: No. The bodies have been kidnapped from the street.
My other neighbors told me just they could not be (INAUDIBLE) to somewhere nobody knows. This is the perfect crime. He is hiding all evidence for every crime he has. This is a horrible situation that nobody knows.
BLITZER: Well, Reda, our deepest condolences to you and your family. Good luck over there. Be careful.
Joan Polasehik, are you still with us?
REDA: Can I add just one thing before you leave?
BLITZER: We're just running out of time, but we'll talk with you again, I'm sure, Reda. Thank you very, very much.
REDA: Thank you so much. BLITZER: We're going to continue our breaking coverage here, speak with more people still stuck, still trapped in Tripoli. We've got Fouad Ajami standing by as well.
We'll continue our coverage right after this.
BLITZER: The United Nations Security Council has been holding an urgent meeting about the crisis in Libya. Some diplomats clearly alarmed by reports of brutality, mass murder by the Gadhafi regime.
Let's go to our Senior U.N. Correspondent Richard Roth.
What are they working on over at the Security Council, Richard?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a vote looms tomorrow, a potential vote tomorrow on a sanctions resolution on Libyan leader Gadhafi and members of his family and the regime there still clinging to power.
The Security Council heard from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon an hour or two ago. He expressed the fears that things are going to worsen for refugees. He said that there is much violence and the council must hold Libya responsible.
We also heard in the Security Council from Libya's current ambassador to the United Nations. And in an unprecedented scene here in the last 20 years, an ambassador denounced the president of his own country, Moammar Gadhafi. This ambassador has stayed silent for several days, though his deputy came out and said Gadhafi must leave and he's committing crimes against humanity.
After his presentation, Mohamed Shalgham, the Libyan ambassador, received hugs and expressions of support from the secretary-general and other diplomats, including some from the Middle East. They realized he was, in effect, pouring his heart out.
During his remarks, he said Gadhafi was really wrong in saying that people were on hallucinogenic pills in the streets attacking his regime. He said that's impossible, how could there be a million people with such pills? He said, "We're going to die for victory," the ambassador said, coming out on the side of the protesters.
Afterwards, he talked to the press about the need for Gadhafi to end the attacks on civilians.
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ABDURRAHMAN MOHAMED SHALGHAM, LIBYAN AMB. TO U.N.: It was important for us, for the Libyan people, that the Security Council should have now a real decision to stop what's going on in our country, the bloodshed, firing on innocent civilians. And I hope that within hours, not days, they can do something tangible, effective, to stop what they are doing there, Gadhafi and his sons, against our people. (END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: The French ambassador called the moment in the Security Council with the hugs and the presentation by the Libyan ambassador an historic moment. The French ambassador said that there's pretty much agreement, Wolf, on sanctions against the Gadhafi regime. The only holdup is in the resolution there's a part where the Libyan authorities are being referred to the International Criminal Court for potential prosecution for crimes against humanity and assorted other things. There are some countries who don't want to set too much of a precedent with that.
There could be a vote, as we said, on Saturday, a resolution imposing an arms embargo, travel ban, asset freezes, all the things that were in place against Libya 10 years ago after the Lockerbie bombing.
BLITZER: Richard Roth will watch it for us throughout the coming days.
Appreciate it, Richard. Thanks very much.
We'll take a break. Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University, he's standing by. We'll discuss what's going on with him when we come back.
BLITZER: Let's bring in a prominent expert on the Middle East. Professor Fouad Ajami is the director of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies here in Washington.
Fouad, how capable is Moammar Gadhafi of committing mass murder on his own people?
FOUAD AJAMI, DIRECTOR OF MIDDLE EAST STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, let's quote Moammar Gadhafi himself. He said at one point -- he said, "I am the man who built Libya, and I am the man who can destroy Libya." This is the sense and complex, if you will, of this character.
What's clear now is that Libya is a house divided. In Benghazi, in the east, there's the free Libya. It has its own flag. It has its own symbolism. It even has its own birth date, which is February 17th, when Libya rose against this man.
In Tripoli, in the bunker, in the killers around him, there's the old Libya. There's the Libya of Moammar Gadhafi and its date of birth, September 1, 1969, when this poor country fell into the hands of this tyrant.
We know all about what we need to know about Moammar Gadhafi. He has told us in word and deed what he's capable of doing. And the question is, will the world, beyond Libya, allow him to get away with it? BLITZER: Well, the U.N. Security Council, you just heard Richard Roth there, getting ready to impose some sanctions, maybe pass a resolution. The U.S. is considering sanctions. The Europeans.
Is that going to stop Gadhafi?
AJAMI: No. That's a very short answer to a very important and fundamental question. It won't.
Let's remember the history of these sanctions.
In 1991, sanctions were imposed on Saddam Hussein, and he remained in power for a dozen years. He outwitted the sanctions. He whittled them down. He defied them. He got around them because he had money and he had oil.
The same is true with Gadhafi, even more money. So I don't think the sanctions will do much.
The sanctions -- we have to be honest, the sanctions are a solution to the Obama problem, to the White House problem, what to do and what to say about Libya and the carnage in Libya. The sanctions will not work.
Something heavier will have to be done. And we have to think, even the high commissioner for human rights of the United Nations has raised the issue now of humanitarian intervention, whether the world will allow Moammar Gadhafi to do what he's been doing. That's the heart of the problem.
BLITZER: Well, when you say humanitarian intervention, that means military action, going in there and either killing him or stopping him one way or another, putting together some troops to do the job. And as you well know, ,that means the United States.
AJAMI: Well, that's about it. Unfortunately, we are always fighting the last war.
President Obama, I think, is traumatized by the Iraq War. This is the war which was to him the unnecessary war.
But when we're looking at Moammar Gadhafi, perhaps we should be realistic about his capabilities.
You and I will remember the big debate about the Balkans, about Bosnia, about Srebrenica in 1995. Everyone said that the Serbs -- these are the Serb forces that tied down 36 Nazi (ph) division. We can't do anything about them.
And finally, when we took them on, when a brave man, a dear and beloved diplomat, an American hero, Richard Holbrooke, finally pushed American into Bosnia, and the Balkans, it turned out, that the Serbian killers had nothing by way of real military power, this Gadhafi is in many ways, I believe -- that's just my own conviction. There is something false about this power and these claims of heroism. Let's go back and remember Saddam. He had said all kinds of things about how he will fight to the end and so on. And we remember him coming out of a spider hole with his hands up without firing a shot, and saying, "I'm Saddam Hussein, and I'm willing to negotiate."
These men, you know, they are much more ferocious when they are on the lam, when they are on the loose. And when they face real power, they're very different kinds of characters.
BLITZER: Listen to this little exchange. Our sister network, CNN Turk, had a chance to speak with Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of Moammar Gadhafi.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any B plan, you or your family, your sisters, brothers, or even your father, to leave Libya one day to another country?
SEIF AL-ISLAM GADHAFI, MOAMMAR GADHAFI'S SON: Yes, we have Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. Plan A is to live and die in Libya. Plan B is to live and die in Libya. Plan C is to live and die in Libya.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. What do you make of that bluster, that tough talk by Seif al-Islam?
AJAMI: You mean Dr. Seif al-Islam, the Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, who wrote about soft power and global governance. That is just bunk. That's the usual talk of dictators.
The question is, in this regard, why do these people soak away these huge fortunes abroad if they want to live and die on their native soil? Maybe they will live and die on their native soil. Perhaps they may have no other choice. The crowd may catch them.
And maybe there is another option -- the Caracas express. They will go to Venezuela and unite with their buddy, Hugo Chavez. Maybe that's another possibility.
BLITZER: Fouad Ajami, thanks very much for coming in. Appreciate it.
AJAMI: Thank you.
BLITZER: We'll continue this conversation. We'll take a quick break.
Is Gadhafi capable of using weapons of mass destruction, chemical warfare against his own people?