The great-nephew of the Libyan king ousted by Moammar Gadhafi said Wednesday his countrymen should be allowed to decide if they want the return of the monarchy, offering his family as a "servant of the Libyan people."
Leaders of the rebels who ended Gadhafi's 42-year-long dictatorship have said they don't envision an institutional role for Prince Mohammed el Hasan el Rida el Senussi or his family, but that isn't discouraging the prince.
Just 7 years old when Gadhafi ousted then-King Idris in a 1969 coup, the prince insisted to The Associated Press during an interview in Rome that the Libyan people should chose what form of democratic government they want _ including having a royal head of state.
"We have to give a chance to this 6 million people to choose what they want," he said, though he declined to say where there should be a referendum. "I'll respect any other choice and we have to respect what Libyan people choose, the monarchy or republic."
What matters, he said, is "to make sure we have democracy, we have freedom of choice."
Jalal el-Gallal, a spokesman for Libya's National Transitional Council said: "It is up to the Libyan people to choose the governing system and there will be a referendum in which they can decide the political structure and the constitution."
But commenting on the prince's remarks, el-Gallal said, "there are many ways to serve the people without being their king."
The prince, whose grandfather was a younger sibling of the childless king, said he came to Rome from his home in London to meet with economic leaders and political figures both from Italy's government and opposition, to keep the world's attention on Libya's future.
Italy, a former colonial ruler of Libya, has decades-solid trade ties with Tripoli, including extensive gas and oil interests.
The prince was working, he said, to ensure that "the future of Libya will be bright, and when I say bright I mean a country with a constitution, with health care system, with freedom of speech and also justice."
The soft-spoken prince recalled how his late father was arrested and his family's house burned to the ground as the Gadhafi regime moved to purge the royals. Eventually, his father, who had been crown prince in Tripoli, was granted house arrest and the family moved to Britain in the late 1980s.
But he said he didn't want to "compare our problems" with the suffering of Libyans under Gadhafi, especially in the last few months as the dictator tried to crush the rebellion.
Rami al-Shaheibi in Benghazi, Libya, contributed to this report.