What spillover will the unrest in Libya have?
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Tess Vigeland: The fast-moving story out of the Middle East took several turns today. Reports out of Tripoli say the Libyan government fired on protesters both from the air and on the ground. Members of Libya’s U.N. delegation called on Colonel Moammar Gadhafi to step down.
Yemen’s president said he will not heed the demands of demonstrators for him to leave office. And Morocco’s king said he will not cede to “demagoguery” in calls for constitutional reform. In Egypt, a top prosecutor requested that ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s assets be frozen around the world.
Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman is in Cairo, which right now is the closest journalists are getting to Libya. Mitchell, what does it look like from there?
Mitchell Hartman: Well, it’s a long way across a big, very empty desert to the Libyan border, so there’s no spillover in that sense. But people are watching Al-Jazeera and other reports really closely. There have been rallies in front of the Libyan embassy. There was one outside of my hotel near Tahrir Square today. And you know, Tahrir is symbolic here because the Egyptians really feel that as the biggest Arab country — the second, after Tunisia, that went people’s revolutionary — that they’re on the vanguard of throwing out autocrats all across the region.
Vigeland: Now the revolution in Egypt is starting to stabilize — people are back to work, banks have opened. The British Prime Minister David Cameron was in Cairo today, as was William Burns, a senior U.S. diplomat. Are they also trying to work an angle on what might happen in Libya?
Hartman: Good luck with that. I mean, Libya is not Egypt. Egypt gets more than a billion in U.S. military aid, even Bahrain has the Fifth Fleet parked in the port. The U.S. has very little trade with Libya, even in oil. We’ve only had normalized relations since 2008. Magda Kandil from the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies says there’s one way both Libya and Algeria, which is its neighbor that’s also bubbling over, matter strategically to the U.S. and Europe — and that’s oil.
Magda Kandil: The entire region could be on fire, and this will have significant impact on the global economy if we see a surge in the oil price because of instability in the region as a whole.
And there really couldn’t be a worse time for this with Europe and the U.S. still in very fragile recoveries.
Vigeland: All right. Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman joining us from Cairo. Thanks Mitchell.
Hartman: You’re welcome.
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