ABC News’ Middle East veteran Christiane Amanpour scored the first U.S. television interview with beleaguered Libyan strong man Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Amanpour was actually a participant in a three-way interview on Monday that also included a reporter each from the BBC and the Times of London. In the interview, the ever-defiant Libyan leader, whose 42-year reign is threatened by protests that have torn apart his country, insisted that he is so beloved by Libyans that “they would die to protect me,” according to a blog post penned by Amanpour on the ABC News Web site.
“They love me. All my people with me, they love me,” she quotes Qaddafi as saying in the interview, which was conducted in an empty restaurant in Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast. Among other statements – most of which were at odds with media reports coming out of Libya over the past week – he insisted that he has not used any force against the protestors. He also said he’ll never relinquish power voluntarily. He blamed al-Qaeda for helping to foment the rebellion in his country (though no evidence has ever surfaced to support the notion of an al-Qaeda connection).
Amanpour, the anchor and host of ABC’s Sunday morning show “This Week,” has been reporting from the Mideast ever since the rebellion in Egypt that toppled the regime of long-time President Hosni Mubarak. She interviewed Mubarak too.
Her Qaddafi interview was seen on Monday night’s edition of ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer.”