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Consternation as Muammar Gaddafi seeks to pitch his tent on Nicolas Sarkozy’s lawn

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya has flummoxed presidential protocol service with a request that a Bedouin tent be erected in central Paris where he can entertain guests during a visit to France next month.

Libyan officials have told their French counterparts that he wants the tent put up in the grounds of the Hôtel Marigny, the 19th-century Parisian state residence used to house important foreign visitors.

The protocol service is unsure how to respond, since it is unwilling to displease the volatile ruler but unsure about setting a precedent that could lead to similar demands from other heads of state. “Nothing’s been settled yet,” said a source at President Sarkozy’s Élysée Palace.

Le Point, the French magazine, said that advisers to the 65-year-old Libyan leader had told Paris he wanted a tent because he suffered from a phobia brought on by being confined indoors.

The Élysée Palace source said that Colonel Gaddafi “made this demand to receive his guests under his tent as is his custom and not to sleep in it.” Colonel Gaddafi, who has ruled the North African country for 38 years, greets visitors in a Bedouin tent in Libya and requested a similar installation when he travelled to Brussels for talks with the Belgian Government in 2004.

A black, Saharan-style tent was erected for him in lush parkland by a lake in the grounds of the Val Duchesse château in the suburbs of the Belgian capital.

Canvas in the Marigny gardens — which are a stone’s throw from the Élysée and the British Ambassador’s residence — would fuel controversy surrounding a visit designed to illustrate the return of the former pariah to the international mainstream.

I don’t know. Looking at the rooms, it’s not much more than a somewhat glorified Motel 6. Not that there’s anything wrong with Motel 6 or anything.

Dubbed the “mad dog of the Middle East” by President Reagan in the 1980s over his backing for terrorist movements, the Supreme Guide of the Libyan Revolution is now seen by Western leaders as an ally in the fight against al-Qaeda. His trip to France follows the release this summer of six foreign medical workers jailed by Tripoli since 1999 for allegedly infecting more than 400 children with HIV.

Mr Sarkozy played a key role in the liberation of the five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor after sending Cécilia, his wife — they have since divorced — for talks with the Libyan strongman.

A day after the medical workers were freed, Mr Sarkozy flew to Tripoli to welcome Colonel Gaddafi back into the family of nations. The meeting provoked a furious row in France when it emerged that Paris had agreed to supply Libya with nuclear technology to power a desalination plant and defence equipment, including military vehicles and air defence systems.

Colonel Gaddafi’s visit to France has been confirmed privately by French government sources but has not yet been officially announced.

Gaddafi’s world

— In his 38-year rule Colonel Gaddafi has styled himself as the leader of a pan-Arabic socialist movement and the progenitor of a United States of Africa

— Travelling with a corps of armed female bodyguards, he has turned his hand to some of the thorniest diplomatic problems – including the Israel-Palestine issue, where he proposes a solution based on a unified state called Isratine

— He plans to act as screenwriter for a $40 million (£19.5 million) epic about the Italian invasion of Libya

— In the 1980s Libya had a reputation for supporting terrorist and revolutionary groups around the world, including the IRA. With this in mind Britain’s National Front approached him for assistance. He offered no money but provided a stack of copies of his slim three-volume Green Book – which offers a “solution to the problem of democracy”

— The same book also covers women’s rights, explaining: “A woman is tender. A woman is pretty. A woman weeps easily. A woman is easily frightened”

Source: Green Book, Times archive, Agencies

Via The Times Online

While the good colonel is in Paris next month, maybe Sarko will “look into his eyes” and see that Gaddafi is a . . . . Sort of like what Dubya did the first time he met with Soviet premier Russian president Vladimir Paranoid.

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