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Middle East expert: End is near for Gadhafi
Jennings optimistic about about region
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0224LIBYAaud

Jim Jennings of Conscience International talks about the roots of Moammar Gadhafi’s iron-fisted rule in Libya.

The Gainesville head of an international relief organization said Wednesday he believes Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi's regime could topple within a couple of weeks.

"It depends on how the army turns, and there's some indications that they will not follow him off the cliff," said Jim Jennings, who founded Conscience International in 1982.

Jennings has traveled to political hot spots around the world, attending peace conferences and providing humanitarian aid.

He has been to Libya, but because of strong anti-American sentiments at the time, he wasn't allowed off the plane.
Gadhafi "is a bloody dictator who's responsible for tens of thousands (of deaths), especially in the war he launched and kept pressing in Chad, southern Libya and Darfur," said Jennings in a phone call from Haiti, where his group is leading a house-building initiative.

The extended war "has largely escaped the attention of the West, but certainly the people in Libya are aware of these events and how they have been cut off from the world for so long," he said.

"What is going to happen right now is anybody's guess, but probably, in all likelihood, Gadhafi will be finished with this revolution."

On Wednesday, major Libyan cities and towns closer to the capital of Tripoli fell into the hands of protesters demanding Gadhafi's ouster.

The opposition has vowed to "liberate" Tripoli, where Gadhafi is holed up with a force of militiamen roaming the streets.

Estimates vary widely on how many Libyans have died as part of Gadhafi's crackdown on the population. The New York-based Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at nearly 300, according to a partial count.

Jennings, who at one time worked in archaeological digs through the Middle East, said the trend of governments in the Middle East region falling under popular revolt is happening largely because of a "generational change."

"Everybody knows and has heard that the influence of technology is significant," he said, referring to social network websites and other electronic forms of communication.

"I think it's more than that. It's a desire to imitate the tremendous accomplishments of the West. Actually, the culture that the (U.S.) has exported in movies, television and technology has had more influence than all of our armies put together."

Jennings said he believes that right now, "all of the presidents, monarchs and dictators throughout the Middle East are trembling on their thrones because of the wrath of a population that has been repressed for so long."

He said the events over the past month in Egypt and Libya have given him some optimism for the region.

"This is one of the most hopeful things I have seen in 40 years in the Middle East," Jennings said. "We'll see how it turns out."

At the same time, "youth and idealism are no match for age and treachery," he said. "In three years from now, the picture may very well look like it did before.

However, we can always hope this will be ... a genuine democratic revolution."

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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