Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gaddafi Not Invited to Obama UN Reception


President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host their first international reception for world leaders later this month, in connection with the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Politics Daily has learned that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has not been invited because of the hero's welcome Gaddafi gave the convicted Pan Am Lockerbie bomber when he returned home to Libya after being released from a Scottish
prison.The Obama reception will be Sept. 23 in New York, as the president makes
his first visit to the United Nations General Assembly and spends several days at the UN.

By coincidence, the United States in September takes its turn holding the rotating presidency of the 15-member UN Security Council. A Libyan is the president of the UN General Assembly, and Libya is also taking a turn as one of 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council.

Besides speaking before the General Assembly, Obama will chair a Security Council summit meeting on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament, host a lunch for leaders of sub-Saharan African nations, and chair a meeting with countries contributing police and troops to UN peacekeeping operations.

In addition, Obama and the first lady will host the traditional U.S. welcome party for the heads of state converging in Manhattan for the opening of a new session.

Gaddafi is among a small group of world leaders -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is another -- not invited to the Obama party. "We can decide who we want to entertain and who we don't," a source close to the situation told me.

The Gaddafi snub, I was told, is directly related to Libya giving a hero's welcome last month to Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the Dec. 21, 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that killed 270 people, 189 of them U.S. citizens.

Al-Megrahi left a Scottish prison after Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill ordered him released from his 27-years-to-life sentence on "compassionate grounds," which is allowed under Scottish law. Al-Megrahi has prostate cancer, and on Aug. 10 was given three months to live.

While relations with the Lybyan leader had been improving, a new strain emerged in the wake of the high-profile welcome al-Megrahi received on Aug. 20. The U.S. and Britain had asked Gaddafi that al-Megrahi's homecoming be without fanfare.

Gaddafi may have been hoping to open a new chapter in U.S-Libya relations, as he just marked the 40th anniversary of the September, 1969 military coup that installed him in power. Last July, Obama and Gaddafi were in Italy for a G8 summit -- Gaddafi there in his role as the president of the African Union -- and Obama shook his hand, a small but symbolic action.

A gesture likely not to be repeated.

Obama and Gaddafi on Sept. 23, both address the UN General Assembly, with Gaddafi following Obama. U.S. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, at a breakfast with reporters last Friday sponsored by the Christan Science Monitor, said Obama will not be taking part in any kind of hand-off.

Rice also said that Gaddafi has given up on what had been a plan to pitch a tent on the grounds of a Libyan residence in New Jersey and instead will stay in Manhattan.

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