McCain denies offering Gaddafi military aid
At a Tucson town hall Tuesday, Sen. John McCain denied offering U.S. military gear to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during a 2009 meeting.
The offer was laid out in a State Department cable released last week by WikiLeaks.
When asked by TucsonSentinel.com if he had been in Libya and offered American military equipment to Gaddafi, McCain said, "I was not."
The leaked cable was incorrect, he said.
The senator then repeated his belief that Gaddafi could have been overthrown more quickly if the U.S. had used more airpower in support of Libyan rebels this summer.
He did not respond to questions asking for a clarification of the 2009 meeting with the Libyan leaders.
"I have met with many leaders of countries throughout the world. I have been the strongest advocate for freedom and democracy. I've received awards from many countries around the word for my advocacy," he said.
In 2009, following the meeting, McCain said, "In particular, we discussed the provision of non-lethal defense equipment to the government of Libya."
"The ties between the United States and Libya have taken a remarkable and positive turn in recent years," McCain said at the time.
McCain told Gaddafi two years ago that he would help the dictator obtain American military hardware, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable posted last Wednesday by WikiLeaks.
A week ago, McCain said Gaddafi's ouster was "so long in coming" because the U.S. did not use the "full weight of our airpower."
Rewind the video to watch the complete town hall.
The Arizona Republican, who traveled to Libya in 2009 with Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Liebermann, "pledged to see what he could do to move things forward in Congress," the cable said.
Also in the U.S. delegation, which spoke with Gaddafi and his son, Libyan National Security Advisor Muatassim Gaddafi, were Republican Sens. Lindsay Graham and Susan Collins.
"Muatassim requested the 'highest level of help possible' to obtain military supplies, including mobile hospitals and uniforms. He also requested assistance with upgrading Libya's equipment, including helicopters," the cable said.
On Sunday, McCain and Graham assailed the summer's U.S. policy of assistance for Libyan rebels, saying "Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Qaddafi, but we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower."