Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi advised U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday to give Osama bin Laden a chance to reform, telling the new president that America's most wanted man was looking for "dialogue".
Gaddafi hailed what he called "positive signals" so far from the new Obama administration, including plans to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Speaking to students at Georgetown University via a satellite link-up from Libya, Gaddafi said Washington must review its approach to bin Laden, who is blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and tops the U.S. Most Wanted list.
"Terrorism is a dwarf not a giant. Osama bin laden is a person who can be given a chance to reform," Gaddafi said through an interpreter. He gave no indication that he had any contact with bin Laden or wanted to act as a go-between.
"Maybe we can have a dialogue with him and find out the reason that led him in this direction," he added.
U.S. ties with Muslims
Obama promised to improve U.S. ties with the Muslim world in his inauguration address on Tuesday, after tensions that followed the Sept. 11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect," Obama said.
After eight years of President George W. Bush, who invaded two Muslim countries and gave strong support to Israel, Arabs and Muslims watched Obama's speech closely for any sign that U.S. policy towards them will change.
Obama said that al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden remain the "number one threat" to U.S. security, after the elusive militant leader warned of new fronts in his war on the West.
In his first audio commentary in eight months, bin Laden called on all Muslims to take revenge against Israel for its deadly offensive in Gaza, charging the onslaught had been timed to take advantage of the dying days of George W. Bush's presidency.
"Bin Laden and al-Qaeda are our number one threat when it comes to American security," Obama told reporters after the emergence of the 22-minute audio recording entitled "A call for jihad to stop aggression against Gaza."
"We're going to do everything in our power to make sure that they cannot create safe havens that can attack Americans. That's the bottom line," added Obama.
Taliban, Mideast conflict
Gaddafi, moreover, said the Taliban, which the United States helped oust in Afghanistan, was "not as it has been portrayed" and Washington should review its views on that group too.
In a speech outlining his views on how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Gaddafi called for the creation of one state rather than two nations living side by side. "We can call it Isratine," he said.
If Jews did not accept a one-state solution, he said they could move to Hawaii, Alaska or an island in the Pacific. "They could live peacefully in an isolated setting."
Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia said that the University did not endorse the speaker or his ideas.
“He is, frankly, a dictator known for decades of shocking brutality, state-sponsored terror, supporting violent insurgents in other countries and, in recent years, positive actions like destroying the country’s weapons of mass destruction and voicing opposition to al-Qaeda.,” he said on the University’s website.
DeGioia explained that the purpose of the lecture was for Gaddafi to discuss his ideas for resolving the Israel/Palestine.