Transcripts of two phone calls between Tony Blair and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi reveal the Libyan dictator forced the former prime minister to confirm he did not support Al-Qaeda, as civil war engulfed the North African state.
On Thursday, the ex-PM submitted a transcript of the calls he made to Gaddafi on February 25, 2011, to MPs as part of their investigation into the UK’s policy on Libya.
Addressing MPs in Parliament, Blair insisted he contacted Gaddafi as a “concerned private citizen,” and confirmed he cleared the phone calls with Prime Minister David Cameron and the US State Department.
Blair accused of supporting Al-Qaeda
Blair appears to have been pressured to respond to a number of allegations during the phone calls, including claims he supported Al-Qaeda. “People spreading rumors through the TV stations. Those people are from Guantanamo, we know them by name, they support Al-Qaeda – do you support Al-Qaeda?” Gaddafi asked Blair. Blair, who drove the thaw in relations between the West and Gaddafi, replied: “No, absolutely not.”
Gaddafi then accused the ex-PM of attempting to recolonize Libya. “It seems this is colonization, I will have to arm the people and get ready for a fight.” Blair insisted: “No one wants to recolonize Libya.” “Let me be clear, no one wants to recolonize Libya – Libya is for its people,” he said.
‘Get to a safe place’
During the conversation, the ex-PM urged Gaddafi to get to a “safe place” in order to promote a peace process in Libya. The transcripts show Blair was attempting to convince Gaddafi to allow a peaceful resolution to the crisis engulfing Libya and avoid a protracted civil war.
“The position of the leader is crucial, if he indicates that he wants this to occur now, and that he will stand aside and go somewhere safe I think this will resolve this peacefully,” Blair told Gaddafi, referring to him in the third person. “He needs to signal acceptance of that change and he needs to stand aside to let that happen peacefully.”
‘We have no problem’
However, the deposed Libyan leader repeatedly refused to leave the country and insisted there was not much fighting going on in Libya. “We have no problem, just leave us alone,” the Libyan leader told Blair. “We are not fighting them, they are attacking us,” he said.
“I want to tell you the truth. It is not a difficult situation at all. The story is simply this: an organization has laid down sleeping cells in North Africa. Called the Al-Qaeda Organization in North Africa … The sleeping cells in Libya are similar to dormant cells in America before 9/11.” He then warned Blair that jihadists would attack Europe if his regime was allowed to collapse. “They [jihadists] want to control the Mediterranean and then they will attack Europe.” Blair has since been accused of trying to protect Gaddafi when he warned him to flee Libya.
‘I was not trying to save Gaddafi’
Speaking during a Foreign Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the UK’s policy in Libya, the ex-PM said: “It’s been presented as if I was trying to save Gaddafi. I wasn’t trying to ‘save Gaddafi.”
“My concern was not for his safety, it was to get him out of this situation.” After the uprising, in which Gaddafi was killed, the relationship between the West and Libya came under heavy criticism in the wake of numerous commercial deals.
Libya remains in the grip of civil war with many areas controlled by Islamic extremists linked to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Crispin Blunt MP, chair of the Committee, said: “The transcripts supplied by Mr Blair provide a new insight into the private views of Colonel Gaddafi as his dictatorship began to crumble around him. “The failure to follow Mr Blair’s calls to ‘keep the lines open’ and for these early conversations to initiate any peaceful compromise continue to reverberate.”
Blair’s business interests tripled in profits
The transcripts were made public a day after accounts published for Blair’s business, Windrush Ventures Ltd, reveal his company saw its turnover increase by a third to £19.4 million in 2015, while profits tripled to £2.6 million.
Staff working for the firm have received an average pay increase of more than £30,000, according to the Mail Online. Tony Blair’s office said in a statement: “As we stress every year, the financial results released today do not present the overall profits of either of the Windrush or Firerush businesses.”
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