Clinton on Mission to Keep Gadhafi Out of the Tent

State Department says it is sensitive to concerns of NJ residents

By Victoria Cavaliere
|  Wednesday, Aug 26, 2009  |  Updated 9:56 AM CDT
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Clinton on Mission to Keep Gadhafi Out of the Tent

AP

Construction is seen in Englewood, N.J., as workers renovate a 25-room mansion owned since 1982 by Libya. Officials are trying to prevent Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi from staying at the mansion in this northern New Jersey suburb during his U.N. visit next month.

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is adding a new task to her international diplomacy to-do list -- booking a hotel room for Moammar Gadhafi ahead of next month's UN General Assembly so the divisive Libyan leader won't pitch a tent in New Jersey as he's threatened.

Gadhafi often brings an (air conditioned) Bedouin tent with him along on international visits -- but reports that he intends to set up camp in Englewood, N.J. has prompted howls from residents and lawmakers. 

New Jersey Democrat Sen Frank Lautenberg wrote to Secretary Clinton this week, requesting that Gadhafi remain in a six block area around the U.N. 

"Given recent events, I believe the State Department should ensure that Colonel Kadhafi's entry into the United States is for official UN business only and does not allow him to travel freely," Lautenberg said.

Gadhafi -- recently photographed warmly embracing newly released Pan Am Flight 103 bomber  Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi -- is now receiving some accommodation help from Hillary Clinton , who is seeking to stem an international incident over the tent-pitching, the Daily News reported.  Some of the Lockerbie bombing's 270 victims' relatives live in the area.

The topic dominated the daily State Department news briefing yesterday. Spokesman Ian Kelly said officials and members of Congress are reaching out to local authorities about the issue.

"Of course our priority has been and will remain the families of the victims of this tragedy," Kelly said.

 "We're also talking to the Libyans to highlight the concerns that we have and the very raw sensibilities or sensitivities of the families who live in that area," Kelly said.

Gadhafi has been forced off property at the United Nations because the area is under construction. He asked to erect a tent in Central Park but the request was rejected.

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