January 25, 2011 / 9:07 PM / in 8 years

UPDATE 1-Gaddafi fears foreign meddling in Tunisia turmoil

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TUNIS, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said on Tuesday he feared the change of power in Tunisia was being exploited by foreign intervention.

Speaking in an interview broadcast on the private Tunisian Nessma television station, he denied that he had invited deposed President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to neighbouring Libya.

“I fear for the Tunisian revolution because I see foreign intervention ... It serves foreign interests,” Gaddafi said.

He went on: “Who said I invited Ben Ali (to Libya)? I did not invite him, I did not suggest that, that is not why I called him.

“This is nonsense ... I do not go against the interests of the Tunisian people.”

Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia for more than 23 years, fled to Saudi Arabia earlier this month after weeks of protests. His departure resonated in other Arab states with restless populations and long-standing rulers.

In a speech soon after Ben Ali’s departure, Gaddafi said he was “pained” by the violent events in Tunisia, that people there had been too hasty to push out Ben Ali and that blood might have been shed unnecessarily. [ID:nLDE70E0FB]

Gaddafi, Libya’s leader since 1969, regularly attacks what he describes as Western imperialism in Africa and the Arab world. Some media reports said he had offered to give Ben Ali refuge when he was fleeing from Tunisia. (Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Andrew Dobbie and Christian Lowe)

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