Cablegate Chronicles: Qadhafi's Travel Preferences
This is an installment from our on-going series on the adventures of American diplomats and the people they monitor. The red button below will take you to another random episode.
Things to note if you ever have to book travel for the Libyan president.
FROM: KABUL, AFGHANISTAN
TO: STATE DEPARTMENT
DATE: September 29, 2009
SEE FULL CABLE
Muammar al-Qadhafi has been described as both mercurial and eccentric, and our recent first-hand experiences with him and his office, primarily in preparation for his UNGA trip, demonstrated the truth of both characterizations. From the moment Qadhafi's staff began to prepare for his travel to the United States, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX of his 40-year rule, various proclivities and phobias began to reveal themselves in every logistical detail. When applying for Qadhafi's visa, XXXXXXX asked whether it was necessary for the Leader to submit a portrait of himself that fit consular application regulations, noting that his photo was displayed throughout the city and that anyone of hundreds of billboards could be photographed and shrunken to fit the application's criteria. When the rule was enforced, XXXXXXXXX reluctantly conceded to take a portrait of the Leader specifically for the visa application.
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¶3. (S/NF) When XXXXXXX began to search for proper accommodations for Qadhafi, XXXXXXXX informed us that the Leader must stay on the first floor of any facility that was rented for him. (XXXXXXXXXX separately told U.S. officials in Washington that Qadhafi could not climb more than 35 steps.) XXXXXXXX cited this requirement as the primary reason that the Libyan residence in New Jersey was selected as the preferred accommodation site rather than the Libyan PermRep's residence in New York City. XXXXXX also sought to find accommodations with room to pitch Qadhafi's Bedouin tent, Qadhafi's traditional site for receiving visitors and conducting meetings, as it offers him a non-verbal way of communicating that he is a man close to his cultural roots.
¶4. (S/NF) Qadhafi's dislike of long flights and apparent fear of flying over water also caused logistical headaches for his staff. When discussing flight clearances with Emboffs,XXXXXXX explained that the Libyan delegation would arrive from Portugal, as Qadhafi "cannot fly more than eight hours" and would need to overnight in Europe prior to continuing his journey to New York. XXXXXXXX also revealed in the same conversation that Qadhafi does not like to fly over water. Presumably for similar reasons, Qadhafi's staff also requested a stop in Newfoundland to break his travel from Venezuela to Libya on September 29.