By John T. Bennett - 04/11/11 10:54 PM EDT
Libya's former ambassador to the U.S. on Monday warned Col. Moammar Gadhafi will plot terrorist attacks against the United States if he is allowed to remain in power.
Members of the Gadhafi regime who have stepped down since fighting broke out in the country say they can prove the embattled Libyan leader was responsible for the 1988 bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 that killed more than 200 over Scotland.
He also urged the Obama administration to become "the major player" in the Libyan situation and said Washington should recognize a top opposition group as that nation's legitimate government.
Aujali said he remains unsure why the Obama White House has yet to formally call Libya's Transitional National Council that nation's new government, as other governments have. Aujali is a member of the council.
If Washington finally gives the council the legitimacy already bestowed upon it by France, Qatar and Italy, billions in frozen assets could be made available to the opposition group, Aujali said.
Those funds — put on ice so Gadhafi cannot use them — are desperately needed for functions like supporting the thousands of Libyan students studying abroad, he added.
Warning Gadhafi and his forces "are gaining power" in the battle against what Pentagon officials describe as poorly armed and -organized rebel fighters, Aujali urged the U.S. to be "the major player in the crisis."
He said airstrikes were very effective during the early days of the coalition intervention, when the U.S. military was in the lead. In more recent days, the airstrikes have not gone as well, something Aujali said might be the result of NATO commanders and opposition leaders on the ground failing to communicate well.
Aujali said he received a phone call just before the start of the forum informing him that Gadhafi’s forces are waging new attacks on Misurata, a major city along the country's northern coast.
Gadhafi has sent "new tanks, new weapons" to Misurata, Aujali said, adding "the coalition has to act now."
Some coalition humanitarian efforts have failed to deliver aid to coastal cities because loyalist forces still control many Libyan harbors.
In urging Washington to do more, Aujali acknowledged the still-struggling U.S. economy.
To that end, he had a message for the American people: "Libya is not a poor country. We will repay our debts. But we need your help to get rid of Gadhafi."
A recent poll conducted for The Hill by Pulse Opinion Research showed that only 25 percent of Americans believe the Libyan operation is worth the costs, which the Pentagon says now surpass $608 million.
Aujali also dismissed fears voiced by some critics of the Obama administration's decision to intervene — including some congressional Republicans — that al Qaeda elements are part of the opposition groups and angling for power in a post-Gadhafi Libya.
"Libyans fight for freedom," Aujali said, adding his countrymen have no desire to go from an oppressive rule under Gadhafi's regime to oppressive rule under al Qaeda.