Tripoli – The most prominent son of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi claimed Wednesday that the regime is forging a secret alliance with radical Islamists among the Libyan rebels.
Saif al Islam Qaddafi, a London School of Economics graduate, gave an hour-long interview to the New York Times in a Tripoli hotel in which he said the more liberal-minded members of the opposition would escape or be killed.
His comments marked a reversal of the earlier condemnation that the Qaddafi regime had for what it called the extremist, Al Qaeda-led core of the uprising in the main eastern city of Benghazi and the western city of Misrata, The (London) Times reported.
The change of heart also came just days after the murder of General Abdel Fatah Younes, the top rebel commander -- a death that some people have linked to Islamist factions of the opposition movement.
Saif Qaddafisaid he had reached an agreement with local Islamists to make the rebel-held town of Darna -- a hub of Islamist extremism -- "an Islamic zone, like Mecca."
He added that Britain, France and other NATO countries were intervening in Libya and not other places such as Algeria, Mali and the Philippines because, "Libya is a small country, small population, a lot of cash, a lot of oil. So it is a very delicious piece of cake."
Saif Qaddafi said the Islamists were "the real force on the ground" in Libya and that Western powers would have to come to terms with them.
"I know they are terrorists. They are bloody. They are not nice. But you have to accept them," he said.
Ali Sallabi, the leading Islamist who Saif Qaddafi identified as his main counterpart in talks, later told the New York Times there had been conversations -- but he ruled out any suggestion of an alliance.