Libya says ready for change but Gaddafi must stay

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya is ready to hold elections and reform its political system but only its own people can decide whether leader Muammar Gaddafi can stay at the helm, a government spokesman said on Monday.

“We could have any political system, any changes: constitution, election, anything, but the leader has to lead this forward. This is our belief,” said Mussa Ibrahim, when asked about the content of negotiations with the West.

“Who are you to decide what Libyans should do? Why don’t they (Western powers) say: we need the Libyan people to decide whether the Libyan leader should stay or go, to decide whether to have a different political system or not.

“No one can come to Libya and say: you have to lose your leader or your system or your regime. Who are you to stay that?”

He said no conditions could be imposed on Libya from abroad, even though the country was ready to discuss proposals aimed at bringing more democracy, transparency, press freedom and anti-corruption laws.

“Don’t decide our future from abroad, give us a proposal for change from within,” he said.

“The leader has no official position to step down from. … He has a symbolic significance for the Libyan people. How Libya is governed is a different matter. What kind of political system is implemented in the country is a different matter. This is a question we can talk about.”

He accused some Western leaders of trying to topple Gaddafi out of personal interest or for economic gain.

“We know there are some politicians in power in the West who just have a personal problem with the leader,” he said. “Others have economic interests which they think would be served better if the government collapsed.”

He denied allegations that government forces were involved in any attacks against civilians, adding that Libya regretted Italy’s decision to back the rebels.

“We are not attacking any civilians, I assure you. We never in this crisis attacked any civilians. … I will not stand and speak for a government that kills civilians. Who do you think we are, monsters?”

Libya says ready for change but Gaddafi must stay