Discourage visit from Libyan leader
By Stewart Stogel
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he (Gadhafi) cancels,” confided one New York City official who has met with the Libyans.
The official, speaking on background, made it clear that Mayor Michael Bloomberg will not roll out the welcome mat for the controversial Libyan leader.
In fact, the official insisted that city hall will do nothing to facilitate a Gadhafi visit to the Big Apple. That means that the “colonel” may have a hard time finding a place to “pitch” his infamous “tent.”
The so-called “Bedouin tent” is a traveling, makeshift, desert-style hamlet set up to receive Gadhafi’s official “guests.” Gadhafi is expected to speak at the U.N. on Sept. 23, but it is not known when he will arrive. The upcoming visit would be the first for the headline-grabbing Libyan leader to the U.S.
His tent city is reminiscent of scenes from the classic movie Lawrence of Arabia, except without the sand, camels or palm trees.
Also, this time, no Central Park, no Flushing Meadows, no Yankee Stadium, no nothing.
Negotiations between Tripoli and New York had been going on for more than a month, but have gone “nowhere,” officials said.
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine also weighed in tonight.
Press Secretary Robert Corrales said the governor feels: “There should be no room in New Jersey for anyone who embraces convicted terrorists. Compassion should be given to the Lockerbie bombing victims and their families, not murderers.”
Corrales was referring to the “hero’s welcome” convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi received in Tripoli when he was released by Scottish authorities on “humanitarian” grounds last week. Megrahi is reported to have terminal cancer.
Gadhafi’s representatives had approached New Jersey officials for permission to set up his tent on the grounds of the home of Libya‘s U.N. ambassador in Englewood, a nearby New York suburb.
That could create a nightmare for thousands of commuters who use the George Washington Bridge or Lincoln Tunnel, as the Libyan moves from New Jersey to the U.N. compound about 15 miles away.
So, with New York and New Jersey rolling out the “no vacancy” sign, just about everyone is asking: “What can he do?”
The Bloomberg official insists the grounds inside U.N. headquarters are still “viable” despite a major renovation project now under way.
Federal land in New York City, specifically Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty. But both appear unlikely.
Or, the “colonel” could simply rent a yacht or barge and place his tent on it and sail around mid-town.
“That could be done,” confessed the New York City official.