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Libya's Gadhafi Pressured To Leave Office

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

As NPR's Philip Reeves reports, with both sides digging in, attention is focusing on the power and the loyalty of Gadhafi's forces.

PHILIP REEVES: Much of his army has turned against him. So have powerful political friends. He's lost control of a huge chunk of the map. But Gadhafi's not finished yet. He still has a hardcore of support - a sort of praetorian guard, says Alia Brahimi, an expert on Libya from the London School of Economics. She says they are loyal.

ALIA BRAHIMI: It's not just the fact that they're guarding their economic and political privileges, but they do feel that they're fighting for their lives. In addition to some sort of indoctrination along the lines, I think they understand that their future lies with him.

REEVES: If Gadhafi fights on, possibly plunging Libya into civil war, military experts say he can count on at least 10,000 troops. There's an elite brigade led by one of his sons and a presidential guard led by another son. Right now Gadhafi can still call on the security services, some foreign mercenaries and big stockpiles of mostly Soviet-era weapons that Brahimi thinks he would be willing to use.

BRAHIMI: The fact that he is insisting that he will live and die in Libya does actually raise a specter of the fact that he might use everything that he has in his arsenal to the very end, to the very last bullet.

REEVES: David Hartwell, a Middle East analyst with the publishers of Jane's Defence Weekly, doubts this. He believes Gadhafi destroyed his stockpiles of these, as promised when he made his rapprochement with the West.

DAVID HARTWELL: I've heard lots of talk about it and it may be that there may be some sort of very crude bits and pieces lying around. But as far as the information that we're aware of, he doesn't have any.

REEVES: Some of Libya's tribes have long played a part in shoring up Gadhafi's power base. In particular, three tribes, says George Joffe of Cambridge University's Department of Politics and International Studies.

GEORGE JOFFE: Those three tribes, in effect, populate the security services. They populate, too, the Revolutionary Committee Movement, the movement that Gadhafi controls directly and that he uses to discipline the population. And they, therefore, represent a major source of power.

REEVES: Their support is far from certain. Joffe says elements within these tribes are now threatening to abandon Gadhafi, although they'll all eventually dump him if he ceases to provide them with access to resources and power. Gadhafi's mental state will be a huge factor in determining what happens next. Brahimi thinks he is unbalanced.

BRAHIMI: I think he doesn't respond to the incentive structures that most statesmen would. I don't think that he makes the same cost and benefit analyses that other statesman make.

REEVES: George Joffe cautions against dismissing Gadhafi as mad.

JOFFE: He is a calculating, effective manipulator of power. And I think we have to assume that even in these circumstances he is quite capable of making rational decisions.

REEVES: However, Brahimi does not rule out the possibility that Gadhafi will eventually successfully defend the rump of land he still holds.

BRAHIMI: It's not inconceivable because there's the one scenario where he lets the east go and he hangs onto the west and the east becomes some sort of independent entity.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
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