Washington:After the hero’s welcome accorded to the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing convict in Libya, there has been a strong opposition in the United States to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s expected stay in New Jersey next month.
Opposition to the Libyan ruler has surged since he welcomed Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the bombing in which all the 259 people aboard the plane and 11 on the ground were killed.
Gadhafi is expected to pitch his Bedouin tent in New Jersey when he comes to the US to attend the UN General Assembly session.
Both the US Senators from New Jersey, Frank Lautenberg, and Robert Menendez, besides the mayor of Englewood in New Jersey and several other lawmakers and human rights groups have urged Obama administration to ensure that Gadhafi does not pitch his Bedouin tent in the city.
The Libyan government owns a mansion in Englewood where it has been speculated that Gadhafi would stay. The State Department on Wednesday said it was talking to the Libyan officials on the issue.
Under an agreement with the United Nations, the US is obligated to facilitate travel and lodging of leaders who come to attend the UN meetings.
“Regarding Mr Gadhafi and his accommodations, there has been no final decision as we understand it,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters. “We have conveyed the views of our congressional representatives to the Libyan authorities. We believe that the Libyans understand these concerns and that we are hoping to take appropriate action and we plan to stay in touch with them,” Kelly said.
Senator Robert Menendez, in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, requested that Gadhafi be issued a visa that restricts him to the UN Headquarters in New York. “I believe that it is only appropriate that Gadhafi’s visit to the US be limited solely to the UN and only for official UN business,” Menendez wrote.
“We, of course, think that the most important thing here is that we respect the feelings of the many families who live in the New York area who lost family members in the horrific bombing,” Kelly said.
When asked, if this means that he shouldn’t come at all, Kelly said: “No, I’m not saying that at all. I am just saying that we need to do this in a way that respects the families.”
Kelly said under the Foreign Mission Act, the US has the right to restrict travel of foreign diplomats within a certain distance of UN headquarters. “Libya is not subject to that, as you know. In the past, Soviet diplomats have been restricted to it. Right now, Iranian diplomats are restricted to it”.
“But there’s another part of the Foreign Mission Act that I think has been referenced to, and that’s that we can impose restrictions on the use of diplomatic residences. That’s a very broad provision, and we are expecting that we will be able to come to some sort of agreement where all of these sensitivities are respected,” he said.