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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2010

GOOFY GADHAFI

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi fears flying over water, likes to watch flamenco dancers, insists on staying on the ground floor of hotels when he travels and never leaves home without his "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse, who might be having an affair with the "world's longest-serving dictator."

Those are some of the candid observations on Mr. Gadhafi's "personal proclivities" contained in a secret cable from U.S. Ambassador Gene A. Cretz in Tripoli, Libya, to the State Department last year.

Mr. Cretz prepared the diplomatic dispatch in an advance of Mr. Gadhafi's maiden speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September 2009, his first visit to the United States.

"Recent firsthand experiences with [Mr. Gadhafi] and his staff, primarily in preparation for his [U.N.] trip, provided rare insights into Gadhafi's inner circle and personal proclivities," Mr. Cretz wrote.

He noted that Mr. Gadhafi has frequently been described as "mercurial and eccentric," adding that the embassy's contacts with the Libyan leader and his aides "demonstrated the truth of both characterizations."

"Gadhafi's dislike of long flights and apparent fear of flying over water caused logistical headaches for his staff," Mr. Cretz said.

Mr. Gadhafi also refuses to fly for longer than eight hours at a time and required a layover in Portugal before flying on to New York, the ambassador said. At 68, the Libyan strongman apparently is weakening, as he cannot climb more than 35 steps at a time, Mr. Cretz added, quoting an aide whose name was redacted from the dispatch released by WikiLeaks.

He insists on staying on the ground floor of hotels, which is why he stayed at the Libyan diplomatic residence in New Jersey.

"Gadhafi relies heavily on his longtime Ukrainian nurse, Galyna Kolotnytska, who has been described as a 'voluptuous blonde,' " the ambassador said, adding that "some embassy contacts have claimed that Gadhafi and the 38-year-old Kolotnytska have a romantic relationship."

At a celebration of the 40th anniversary of his reign, Mr. Gadhafi enjoyed dance troupes from Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Ukraine, but was especially interested in the flamenco dancers from Spain.

However, the ambassador warned State Department officials not to underestimate Mr. Gadhafi, whom he called the "world's longest-serving dictator."

"While it is tempting to dismiss his many eccentricities as signs of instability, Gadhafi is a complicated individual who has managed to stay in power for 40 years through a skillful balancing of interests and realpolitic methods," Mr. Cretz concluded.

PHONY DINNER

An influential Western business executive plugged holes in the walls of a run-down palace and cut the electricity so a miserly Saudi prince could entertain Britain's Prince Charles at a candlelight supper that the businessman later described as a "phony dinner."

This bit of diplomatic tattle from WikiLeaks is contained in a secret cable in 2006 from Tatiana Gfoeller, U.S. consul general in the Saudi city of Jidda at the time. Ms. Gfoeller did not reveal the name of the businessman.

The businessman described how he developed a personal relationship with Prince Khalid bin Faisal, who was governor of Asir province until 2007. He is now governor of Makkah province.

Prince Khalid was living in the shabby palace that once belonged to the late King Faisal and was worried he would be embarrassed by the condition of the royal residence when he hosted a dinner for Prince Charles earlier that year. Prince Khalid gave the businessman only three weeks to make repairs.

He told Ms. Gfoeller he used styrofoam to fill holes in the walls and cut the power so the dinner was lit by candles. Charles was impressed and commented on "how luxurious and beautiful the palace was."

Khalid, whom the businessman noted is known as "extremely cheap," gave him a "tip" of more than $13,000 and two paintings, one by the Saudi prince and one by Prince Charles. The businessman told Ms. Gfoeller that Khalid had established an artists' village in Abha, the capital of Asir, and encouraged the painting of people and people's faces in violation of Saudi Arabia's strict Wahhabi version of Islam.

*Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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