Muammar Gaddafi: A man of eccentricities, enigma

October 20th, 2011 - 10:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Tripoli, Oct 20 (IANS) Libyan leader Muammar Gaddaffi, who was killed by National Transitional Council fighters in his hometown Sirte Thursday, will be remembered as a “mercurial and eccentric” man.

In a leaked diplomatic cable, US American ambassador to Libya Gene A. Cretz threw light upon Gaddafi’s personality and lifestyle.

Cretz dispatched the wire days after Gaddafi’s 2009 visit to New York City (NYC) to address a meeting of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). He wrote that Gaddafi’s speech, which could only be described as erratic, was marked by a tearing of the UN charter, Al Jazeera reported.

In his speech, Gaddafi also wondered aloud whether swine flu was manufactured as a weapon and said that the Security Council should be renamed the “terror council” and demanded investigations into the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

The episode raised Gaddafi’s profile in Western media and left many people eager to know more about who he was.

According to Cretz’s wire, in one instance, Gaddafi initially refused to have his picture taken for a US visa application. An aide suggested that the US consulate instead photograph one of the hundreds of billboards in Libya that featured his image and shrink it to fit its criteria.

Gaddafi was well-known for his carefully constructed photo ops and media events. His image was plastered on billboards and banners throughout Libya, often portraying him as a hero of the people. His face was also featured on commemorative stamps and state currency.

As per Cretz, Gaddafi even once presented Condoleezza Rice, the former US secretary of state, with a locket that had his image engraved on the inside!

Believed to have been obsessed with maintaining an image of being young and strong, Gaddafi often wore bright colours, preferring safari suits and sunglasses over traditional diplomatic attire. He changed his outfits frequently throughout the day.

Gaddafi had fear of heights, and could not fly for more than eight hours or over water. According to Cretz, this created “logistical headaches for his staff”. When tending to his travel arrangements, they had to plan alternative routes and frequent stops due to this phobia.

But, interestingly, Gaddafi had a penchant for giving speeches from high places!

Cretz observed that Gaddafi seemed “obsessively dependent” on a core of trusted staff - including his “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse Galyna Kolotnytska. In fact, they were so close that some embassy personnel believed that the two shared a romantic relationship.

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