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March 7th, 2011
06:53 PM ET

Gov. Richardson: Powell should tell Gadhafi to leave and US should tap SPR

Former Gov. of New Mexico Bill Richardson spoke with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the future of Libya’s leadership and if the United States should tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Transcript and additional video are after the jump.

This interview aired on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer during the 5 p.m. ET hour.

Please credit all usage of the interview to CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer

EMBEDDABLE VIDEO: Powell should tell Gadhafi to leave

Full Transcript

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR:  Nato now says it's conducting around-the-clock surveillance flights over the wore torn area of Libya.   U.N. officials, I should say, are warning we could see even more carnage in the immediate days ahead as Moammar Gadhafi presses on with his brutal fight to hold on to power.  Still, no decision yet by the United States and its allies on a no-fly zone.

Joining us now the well-known diplomatic troubleshooter, Bill Richardson, the former New Mexico governor, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and former energy secretary.  Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming.  You want to be called ambassador or governor.  What do you like?

BILL RICHARDSON, (D) FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR:  Call me bill, after traveling together in North Korea, you can call me anything you like.

BLITZER:  Six days in North Korea with Gov.  Richardson.  We're going to talk about that on another occasion, but let’s talk about Libya right now.  Somebody at some point is going to have to go to Tripoli, look Gadhafi in the eyes and say, Col, it's over, over.  You can either get killed here and or you can leave and go some place else.  Who would be the best person to go there and give him that blunt message?

RICHARDSON:  Somebody like Colin Powell.  Somebody that has foreign policy credentials but also has military credentials.  Somebody that Gadhafi knows is close to President Obama.  There's a number of people, but I would put General Powell at the top of list.  And I believe this has to happen because Gadhafi is clinging on to power.  His options are very limited.

He can either go to Zimbabwe or Venezuela, and he probably is hanging on because he doesn't want to do either.

BLITZER:  Is there an Arab leader who can do that?  Some monarch or some president who’s got the relationship with Gadhafi and say you know what, colonel, you've got to get out of here.

RICHARDSON:  I don't believe so.  He has kind of been the leader of Africa, along with the Sudanese president, at least of North Africa, Mandela.  But I don't know the status of his health.  But I think it's going to have to happen soon.  The Italians have a lot of leverage over Libya, but I think it's going to take somebody with a very strong American connection.

BLITZER:  He's still getting nice words from Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.  He's still praising him, attacking the United States.  Even Fidel Castro writing nice stuff about Gadhafi.

But you don't see either of one of them having the guts to tell Gadhafi it's over.

RICHARDSON:  No.  In fact, probably, if Gadhafi is thinking of exile, those are the only two or three that would take him.  You'll recall the Saudi –

BLITZER:  Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

RICHARDSON:  Mugabe in Zimbabwe.  You'll recall the Saudi royal family, they took in Idi Amin.

BLITZER:  Right.

RICHARDSON:  But they said they're not going to take Gadhafi in because he tried to knock them off.

BLITZER:  What about you?  If somebody said, you know, Bill - you've met with diplomatic thugs all over the world.  We were just in North Korea.  What if they said to Bill Richardson, go to Tripoli, and here's the message you've got to deliver to Gadhafi?  He would see you, I'm sure, but would you do it?

RICHARDSON:  Well, I would do it, but I'm not the definition of the State Department's traditional diplomat.

BLITZER:   But you do that all the time.  You've been to Syria, to Iran,  to Cuba.  You've been all over the world in these kinds of situations.

RICHARDSON:  Well, obviously, if the president asked me, I would do it, but I don't see that in the cards.  I think they want a more traditional diplomat, but somebody is going to have to do it.

BLITZER:  And you think this no-fly zone, you've been saying now for the past couple of days, is a good idea, the U.S. should do it, even though Gates and Bill Daley, the president's chief of staff, and others say, you know what, this is not a video game, this is tough stuff?

RICHARDSON:  Well, what I have said is that it should be a no-fly zone administered by NATO, internationally recognized.  I think if you go through the U.N., you're going to face a veto by the Russians or the Chinese.

I do think there are ways we can help the rebels.  We can help them with humanitarian airlifts. I would support a covert effort to arm the rebels.  I think we have to stand behind those rebels, but it has to be international.  It's got to be France, Britain, NATO, out-of-area NATO.  You've got to be careful about a no-fly zone.  You can't just say do it.

BLITZER:  In all my reporting, inside the administration, the executive branch of the government, it doesn't seem that the U.S. government has a good handle yet on who these rebels are.  If they could trust them, they might give them Stinger missiles or shoulder-fired missiles to knock down Libyan warplanes, but they are not sure they would be giving the weapons to the right people.

RICHARDSON:  Look, sometimes you've got to take a gamble, you've got to take a risk.  These are rebels.  These are young men, young women that want Gadhafi out.

They're not going to be a perfect military structure or government structure.  It looks like they are forming a provisional government, but I think in the end, the United States and NATO should stand behind those that are trying to get rid of Gadhafi, that they should back them.  You've got to be careful how you do it militarily, but all diplomatic assistance, humanitarian assistance, maybe eventually recognize this provisional government once it's formed.  But what you don't want is a carnage in Libya –

BLITZER:  Yes.

RICHARDSON:  - and the international community kind of sitting back.

I like what President Obama said, Gadhafi has to come out.  He's forming a diplomatic coalition, that's good, but I think eventually it's going to take a military combined effort with NATO

BLITZER:  Put on your hat as a former U.S. energy secretary, former governor, if you will, too.  Is it time, given the increasing cost per gallon of a gallon of gasoline, is it time to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to make sure the price doesn't go over $4 a barrel?

RICHARDSON:  Yes.

BLITZER:  Or $4 a gallon.

RICHARDSON:  Yes, I think we need to tap it.  We need to tap it to protect the home heating oil prices and situation in the Northeast.  We need to tap it to disrupt –

BLITZER:  Right away?

RICHARDSON:  Yes, to disrupt –

BLITZER:  When you were energy secretary, Bill Clinton tapped it.

RICHARDSON:  I tapped it.  President Clinton ordered me to tap it.

BLITZER:  It's only the second time the U.S. has ever done that.

RICHARDSON:  That's right, for home heating oil reasons.

BLITZER:  Was it a good idea then?

RICHARDSON:  It was a good idea, because the price went down, it disrupted OPEC's efforts to try to control the price.  What OPEC needs to do is increase production so the price goes down.  But if you disrupt it, you send a signal to the markets that the price is too high.  And it is too high.

Motorists in America, around the world, it's a worldwide problem.  So I would tap it.  I would tap it significantly, and I would tap it now.

BLITZER:  Governor Richardson, thanks very much for coming in.

RICHARDSON:  Thank you.  Thanks for having me.

BLITZER:  Thank you.

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