By Mick Krever, CNN
“Libya is not a failing state,” Prime Minister Ali Zeidan emphatically told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Thursday. “The state of Libya doesn't exist yet.”
“We are trying to create a state, and we are not ashamed of that,” he said. “The outside world believes that Libya is failing, but Libya was destroyed by Gaddafi for forty two years and was destroyed by a full year of civil war. And that's why we are trying to rebuild it.”
He said that the idea that democracy can be built “within a month” is “an illusion.”
The most-current crisis in Libya involves the militias that have run rampant since the revolution.
Militias in the east of the country are demanding more autonomy from the central government, and have severely constrained Libya’s oil output, which is central to its export revenue.
Prime Minister Zeidan denied reports that his government had tried to pay off the militias to get their cooperation, a charge he vigorously denied, calling such a move “immoral” and “inappropriate.”
The Libyan government is trying to negotiate with the militias to “resolve the matter peacefully,” he told Amanpour, but was prepared to use force if necessary.
“If it gets to a dead end, the state will act as a state and will impose and enforce the rule of law against those who violate it,” Prime Minister Zeidan said. “Everything is possible. Everything that could bring things back to normal, with the least damage possible, we will do.”
Part of Libya’s state-building involves reconciliation and accountability of the Gadhafi dictatorship that ruled the country with brutal force.
The International Criminal Court has asked Libya to hand over Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Saif; Libya has refused
“We believe that the trial of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is an internal Libyan affair,” Prime Minister Zeidan told Amanpour. “What he did, he did against the Libyan people and he must be tried fairly for that. And this will happen.”
Justice is also being sought in the murder last year of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others at an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“We arrested some suspects and they are under investigation, and they named some other suspects,” Prime Minister Zeidan said. “We are in close cooperation with the United States,” he said, adding that “what needs to be done is those people who killed Mister Christopher [Stevens] be prosecuted and will be punished duly.”
The overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi marked a different point in the Arab Spring. Compared with the nearly two-plus year bloodbath in Syria, the overthrow of dictators in Tunisa, Libya, and Egypt seems relatively quick.
Prime Minster Zeidan went recently to visit Egypt’s General al-Sisi, which caused much controversy domestically for the Libyan leader. So was he glad about the military ousting of President Mohamed Morsy?
“I am not happy and I'm not sad,” he told Amanpour. “This is an Egyptian internal matter. I cannot have a say in that. All I can say is to bless the choice of the Egyptian people. I went to Egypt because Egypt is a neighboring state and it's important for us to keep normal relations.”
As the international community is in throws over if and how to force Syria to give up its chemical weapons, many are looking to Libya, which voluntarily said it would disarm itself of its own chemical weapons under Ghadhafi.
That process began years ago, but there are still weapons in the country.
“To destroy the chemical weapons piles, it's very costly and requires a high level of technology,” Prime Minister Zeidan said. “We are doing every effort to control the chemical weapons.”
He said that even during the uprising, the Libya opposition began cooperating with the U.S. on how to control the chemicals.
“Some technical missions came and went behind the fighting lines to maintain surveillance on the chemical weapons,” he said.