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Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, a proponent of change, may one day lead Libya

Saif Gaddafi, though, is far from pro-Western. Last year, he negotiated the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and brought him back from Scotland to a hero's welcome. He declared Megrahi innocent, angering the United States and Britain but burnishing his popularity in Libya.

"Being pro-Western is a double-edged sword in the Middle East," Sawani said. "He'd rather be associated with Western ideas than Western designs and Western politics."

Saif Gaddafi has proposed new penal codes, an independent judiciary and tax-free investment zones. But plans for a constitution have floundered in Libya's political bureaucracy -- his father annulled the 1951 constitution. The government also has restricted the activities of two newspapers backed by the younger Gaddafi.

"There is huge opposition to Saif's plans. What you got is a bunch of people with vested interests in the system," said Mustafa Fetouri, a Libyan political analyst. "They want to see change, but only in their own way."

'No' to government job

Gaddafi turned down his father when he offered him the second-most powerful post in the government. "We want to see a constitution to create a more democratic and transparent political game in Libya," he said. "Until that time, I am not interested in being part of the government."

Gaddafi's biggest rivals are his brothers -- Mutassim, Libya's national security adviser, and Khamis, a military commander. Unlike Saif, both reportedly have strong power bases in the military, whose support is essential to hold power, analysts say. Mutassim also appears to be close to the hard-liners who oppose Saif's reforms.

One potential weapon Saif Gaddafi holds is Libya's youth. In a nation where an estimated 70 percent of the population is younger than 30, he views himself as the champion of a generation longing for change. "I embody the dream of the young people," he said.

His popularity is visible on the streets of Tripoli. In cafes, young Libyans openly declare their support for him and credit him with gaining them more freedom to speak openly. But there is also frustration that they have not benefited from Libya's oil wealth.

"The ordinary Libyan needs job opportunities. Before a road, he needs a car," said Ibrahim Ali Mugasavi, 36, a businessman. "Dr. Saif's reforms, up to now, they are just media. We have not seen something concrete, yet."


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