Friday, August 28, 2009
Congressman: Gadhafi won't stay in N.J.
Lawmaker says he has been assured about Libyan leader's U.S. trip The warm greeting for Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, right, the convicted Lockerbie bomber, from Libya's Moammar Gadhafi has angered a mayor in New Jersey, the home of 38 of the paseengers killed in the attack on a jet over Scotland.
updated 6:06 p.m. ET, Fri., Aug 28, 2009
NEWARK, N.J. - U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman said late Friday he has been given assurances from a representative of the Libyan government that Moammar Gadhafi won't stay in Englewood, N.J., when he visits the United States next month to address the U.N. General Assembly, a visit that has sparked angry protests.
The Libyan government has been renovating an estate there ahead of Gadhafi's first U.S. visit. But Gadhafi is unwelcome in New Jersey, which lost 38 residents in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The attack, which killed 270 people, is widely believed to be the work of Libyan intelligence.
Rothman said he was told of the decision to keep Gadhafi out of Englewood by former U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston, whose firm represents the Libyan government in Washington, D.C.
"I am very pleased that Moammar Gadhafi will apparently not be coming to Englewood," said Rothman, who thanked the Libyan government for its help. "His appearance would have presented unnecessary safety and security issues for the residents of Englewood and the Libyan diplomats."
Rothman's information has not been confirmed by the White House or U.S. Department of State.
The news that Gadhafi may not be staying in Englewood came as the city sought an injunction in Bergen County Superior Court to halt renovations at the sprawling estate. A hearing on the request, which would allow Englewood police to stop work there, is scheduled for Monday.
Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes vowed to pursue the injunction.
"The Libyans have lied before, so we're still going forward," Wildes said.
Bomber welcomed with cheers
Gadhafi has worked to try to rehabilitate his image in recent years but angered the U.S. and Britain last week with the warm welcome given to Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds because he's dying of cancer and returned to Libya. A cheering crowd at the Tripoli airport greeted al-Megrahi, who was accompanied by Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam.
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine and U.S. senators and representatives from New York and New Jersey have joined residents in protesting Gadhafi's likely presence in the upscale community about 12 miles from Manhattan.
"The one thing we do not want is Gadhafi in New Jersey," said Kara Weipz, of Mount Laurel, N.J., whose 20-year-old brother, Richard Monetti, was on Pan Am Flight 103.
Gadhafi was expected to pitch a ceremonial Bedouin-style tent on the grounds for entertainment purposes after a request to erect it in Manhattan's Central Park was rejected due to logistics and security concerns, officials said.
Years of image rehab
The Libyan government, which bought the Englewood estate in 1982, has been renovating the property extensively in anticipation of Gadhafi's visit, expected to be the culmination of a yearslong effort to repair his international image, which has included denouncing terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. He has ruled the oil-rich North African kingdom since 1969.
But the New York metropolitan area suffered a heavy toll in the Pan Am attack and remains hostile to Gadhafi. The 97 residents of New York and New Jersey killed on the plane represent more than half the 189 Americans who died.
Wildes said mansion workers have violated numerous city ordinances with their renovations to the 5-acre estate.
The city sought to slow the renovation in a Monday stop work order, which carries a $2,000-a-day fine, but the Libyans ignored the order. The injunction would allow Wildes to send police in the city of 28,000 residents onto the property to halt work.
The four U.S. senators from New York and New Jersey, all Democrats, said they will introduce a resolution condemning al-Megrahi's release and his welcome home to Libya.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, of New Jersey, described the welcome as "sick" and "a shocking insult to decency."
Sen. Charles Schumer, of New York, said the Libyan government should apologize.
"The victims' families have had no peace since the day this evil act occurred and now their wounds have been reopened," he said.
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