Abdul Salaam Jalloud, Libya's number two leader, denied today that his country had ever sought to turn President Carter's brother, Billy, into a agent of the Libyan government and said it had simply extended "a hand of friendship" to a sympathetic American citizen.
Speaking at a press conference here for visiting journalists, Jalloud said he was "saddened" that his country's "honorable relations" with Billy Carter had been turned into a scandal to hurt him as well as to attack Libya.
"Billy Carter is an American citizen, and this is how we see him," said Jalloud, who ranks as Col. Muammar Qaddafi's closest deputy. "He extended a hand of friendship to us and we did the same to him. Any American who extends a hand to us, we wil do the same for him."
"It is very wrong to take Billy Carter as an agent of Libya or as someone who has been asked to play a certain role in the United States on our part," Jalloud said, speaking in a conference room in Tripoli's ornate People's Palace. "We have no specific aim in America and no need to ask someone like Billy Carter to do something for us there."
His comment was in reference to the ongoing congressional investigations in Washington into thepropriety of a $220,000 loan that Billy Carter has admitted receiving from the Libyan government after a visit here last year to attend the 10th anniversary of the Libyan revolution. Because of the loan, Billy Carter has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for Libya, although he has denied that he ever was.
Jalloud said that because Libya had been unable to get a fair hearing from the U.S. State Department, it had sought to deal directly with the American people to get its own viewpoint across.
Billy Carter was just one of many Americans who visited Libya in the past year and with whom the Libyan government maintained good relations, he said, adding that doctors, university professors, and even members of Congress had been among those who came here to see Libya for themselves.
"We have no desire, or intention to be the enemies of the American people," Jalloud said. "But unfortunately because of the influences of Zionism, and the politics of the American government, the American people have found themselves in a position of being the enemy of the Arab world."
Maj. Jalloud, one of the five surviving members of the original 12 revolutionary officers who overthrew King Idris 11 years ago this week, is considered Qaddafi's right-hand man, although he, like Qaddafi, has no formal official title or government position.
Jalloud said that he and the other members of the ruling Revolutionary Council did not have any prior knowledge of the controversial loan to Billy Carter. "I only heard about it," he said, "when I read about it in the newspapers."
This, he said, was not particularly unusual, because Libya had many institutions and not every piece of business -- or every loan granted -- was necessarily referred to the council.
The loan itself, which reputedly was to be the first installment of a $500,000 loan, was arranged for the president's brother by Ahmed Shahati, the head of the Foreign Liaison Bureau. In the past year, it has emerged as a parallel establishment to the oficial Libyan Foreign Ministry.
"It is not illegal to deal with American citizens," Jalloud said. "If we give aid to an American citizen like Billy Carter this is quite legal. The loan in question was a normal tranaction."
"Unfortunately, we are saddened that our honorable relations with a U.S. citizen were used to besmirch him and attack us," he added. "I am very sad that these relations have been turned into a scandal to hurt us."
The Libyan revolutionary leader also expressed praise and support for the Iranian revolution, though he sought to disasociate Libya from the holding of U.S. diplomatic hostages.
"We are opposed to the holding of diplomatic hostages," He said. "But we support the Iranian revolution and think that the hostage question is not one for us to deal with but the Iranians themselves."