Colonel Muammar Gaddafi four months ago fulfilled his promise to dismantle Libya's weapons of mass destruction (WMD), earning himself rare praise from the White House. Speaking with TIME's Scott MacLeod and Amany Radwan in Tripoli, the leader of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (State of the Masses) revealed how he has, and hasn't, mellowed.
ARE YOU SURPRISED TO FIND YOURSELF ON RELATIVELY FRIENDLY TERMS WITH THE U.S.? There is never permanent animosity or permanent friendship. When one is mistaken and regrets his past mistakes, this has to be taken into consideration. I realize that America and the West understood that they had made a mistake. It is ironic that Bush is now repeating what I was saying: We were supporting liberation movements in the world.
WHAT ABOUT LIBYA'S MISTAKES? In tactics, for example. Libya said the Irish struggle is a legitimate struggle. But when the I.R.A. used weapons against civilian targets, this is their responsibility. We all made mistakes, both sides. The most important thing is to rectify the mistakes.
DOES THE LOCKERBIE BOMBING FALL INTO THE CATEGORY OF LIBYAN MISTAKES? Until now the perpetrators are unknown.
WHY DID LIBYA ACQUIRE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION? The program started at the very beginning of the revolution. The world was different then. It was not only Libya that was thinking along these lines. I know [former Romanian leader] Ceausescu used to boast that Romania was able to manufacture the nuclear bomb.
WHAT MADE LIBYA DECIDE TO DISMANTLE ITS WMD? We started to ask ourselves, "By manufacturing nuclear weapons, against whom are we going to use them?" World alliances have changed. We had no target. And then we started thinking about the cost. If someone attacks you and you use a nuclear bomb, you are in effect using it against yourself.
HAS LIBYA BEEN REWARDED FOR ABANDONING WMD? Libya and the whole world expected a positive response--not just words, although they were nice words--from America and Europe. Blair and Bush expressed their satisfaction. But there must be at least a declaration of a program like the Marshall Plan, to show the world that those who wish to abandon the nuclear-weapon program will be helped. They promised, but we haven't seen anything yet.
ISN'T LIBYA'S ALLEGED PLOT TO ASSASSINATE SAUDI CROWN PRINCE ABDULLAH WHY LIBYA REMAINS ON THE U.S. LIST OF TERRORIST STATES? We have a good relationship with Saudi Arabia. My personal relationship with Prince Abdullah is a good one. This is a fabricated case, an intentionally destructive thing. We see America paying so much attention to [Abdullah], as if he were its citizen. They have not learned from the past. The list of accusations against Libya is very long. They all proved false. We are still in a vicious circle.
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET OUT OF IT? Dialogue should continue. Accusing Libya of being a country that sponsors terrorism is a very dangerous thing. That has psychological repercussions. Libya could argue, "Since I am still on the terrorist list, why not commit terrorism, which I am accused of anyway? Why should I pay the price without getting something in return?"