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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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BLITZER: The president of the United States at the White House today. Let's talk about what's going on with the Republican senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham. He's a key member of Senate armed services committee. He's been to Libya several times, including last month, also many years ago met with Moammar Gadhafi.

So, let's talk a little bit about the president first and foremost. Are you ready to say job well done, mission accomplished, Mr. President, thank you for your good work?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I want to thank the administration for jumping on board when they did. But I think it's fair criticism to say if we had imposed a no fly zone early on we wouldn't have wait to Misrata when the whole city was under siege and a lot of people were about to be massacred. I'm glad we intervened before it got worse in Misrata.

I'm very disappointed we took American air power off the table at a time it could have ended the war.

But having said all of that, I'm glad Gadhafi is dead and a new day dawns and this president. And this Congress and this world will be judged by what happens next more than what happened in the past.

BLITZER: Let's talk about what Libya needs. You heard the Libyan ambassador appeal to the United States. I know he did it to you when you were there with Senator McCain not that long ago, to Secretary Clinton yesterday to send over one of these huge us Navy hospital ships to help with the wounded, with the injured in Libya and to open up U.S. military hospitals and other hospitals in Europe.

You've raised this issue with the Obama administration. Is the U.S. going to do it?

GRAHAM: I hope so. They're sitting on -- we're sitting on $34 billion of frozen Libyan assets that can be used to reimburse us. The French and the Germans already have signed agreements with the Libyans to provide medical treatment. We have two naval hospitals. One could be sent to Libya to provide some acute care. Opening up a military base in Germany to the wounded in Libya not only would be the right thing to do, it would solidify our relationship for decades to come. We have urged the administration to do this, and they're taking it very seriously.

BLITZER: That's not cheap. But you say is that the Libyans who have exported a lot of oil potentially, they're going to reimburse the U.S. for all of this plus everything it costs to liberate Libya from Gadhafi?

GRAHAM: I don't know if they're going to reimburse us for everything. The cost to liberate is about $1 billion. But they've said they would be willing to reimburse for medical treatment or infrastructure support we provide.

This is a big deal for the world, not just Libya and the United States. If we can get the Libyan oil production back up and running, that's more supply for us at home come from now a friendly nation. So, it's in our national security economic interest to help the Libyan people get back on their feet and to make sure a vacuum is not created in Libya on the security front and governance front like Afghanistan and Iraq.

BLITZER: Would you support the U.S., the U.N., the NATO allies doing in Syria, what it has just done in Libya?

GRAHAM: You know, that's a really good question. I support the idea of isolating Assad and letting the world know that his time is up. We don't have the support against Syria like we did with Libya. The Arab League is talking about kicking him out. But when it comes to Assad and ending his terror, I hope we will be as bold as in the past and if you could stop Assad or take him out and replace him, that's a big blow to Iran, because he's one of Iran's more reliable allies. But I don't think we need military action at this point.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, thanks very much for coming in.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

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