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Qaddafi Interviewer: He was very focused, very odd

A journalist who interviewed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2009 described the Libyan leader as both "very, very focused" and "very odd."

Michael Elliott, deputy managing editor of Time magazine, and fellow Time editor Romesh Ratnesar interviewed Qaddafi in September 2009, when the Libyan leader came to New York to address the United Nations.

Though they sat with Qaddafi for an hour, the Time journalists were only allowed to videotape about five minutes of the interview, which was posted on Time magazine's website.

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In recalling the interview session on "The Early Show" today, Elliott remarked that Qaddafi struck him as "very odd."

"It was one of the most extraordinary interviews I've ever done, but I got the sense in the hour that we were with him that he could flip from someone who was very, very focused on what message he wanted to give us on the one hand, and on the other hand this strange sort of figure . . . almost semi-detached from what was going on," Elliott told anchor Erica Hill. "He could flip from one thing to the other; it was an extraordinary."

Qaddafi was "absolutely focused," Elliott said, when speaking to the fact that "he didn't think that Libya had really got enough from the west - and in particular from the U.S. - for giving up its nuclear program four or five years ago."

As the unrest has grown in Libya, the country's own diplomats condemned the Qaddafi regime's brutal crackdown on its own people. Libya's ambassador to the U.S., Ali Aujali, urged Qaddafi to step down.

When asked by Hill how Qaddafi's staff acted in his presence in 2009 - whether they were in lock-step with him or fearful, Elliott replied, "I wouldn't say they felt fearful. They were certainly - what's the word I'm looking for - over-respectful.

"There was a certain distance from him, there was a certain 'Brother Leader is coming' feeling. It felt to me (I don't want to trivialize this) like the Hans Christan Andersen story 'The Emperor With No Clothes.' Everyone was very, very very careful in his presence."

Given his experience with him, Elliott was asked if he thinks there is a chance that Qaddafi will step down willingly.

"No, I wouldn't have thought so," he replied. "I think what we've seen in the last 24 hours is that, unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, the regime in Libya is determined if it possibly can to hold onto power.

"In Tunisia and Egypt, the rulers in power did not unleash the armed forces with this brutal repression that by all accounts (in terms of what we've been hearing from Tripoli) we've seen in Libya. So I think it is clear that Qaddafi and those around Qaddafi are trying very, very hard to maintain power.

"I think it's also clear, however, in the last 24 hours that they do not have the total support of the power structure in Libya in the way in which we thought perhaps a week ago they might have done."