Former Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi warned Tony Blair that the collapse of his regime would result in Islamic extremists taking over the North African country, according to newly released transcripts that provide an insight into the panicked phone calls between world leaders during the Arab Spring.
Blair called the now deceased dictator in February 2011 and urged him to work on an orderly transition to a new government in order to avoid bloodshed, according to transcripts retained by Blair and published on Thursday.
In the calls, Qaddafi said he feared an organisation with "sleeping cells" called the "al-Qaeda Organisation in North Africa" was taking over the country.
He also accused Blair of supporting terrorism by urging him to stand down: "Those people are from Guantánamo, we know them by name, they support al-Qaeda – do you support al-Qaeda? Are you supporting terrorism?"
He said the group was being led by a former Guantánamo Bay detainee and urged Blair to warn that the Libyan revolution would end with Libya becoming a base for Islamic extremism: "They want to control the Mediterranean and then they will attack Europe. Need to explain to the international community. You must emphasise that the fight is against al-Qaeda."
In response Blair, who said he made the calls to the Libyan leader as a "concerned private citizen", told Qaddafi there could be no international deal until the government forces ceased fighting.
The transcripts were published by the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, which is investigating British foreign policy in Libya.
Qaddafi was killed in Libya in October 2011 after refusing to flee the country. Since then Libya has been riven by factionalism and currently has two rival governments, with some areas also controlled by ISIS.
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at email@example.com.
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