BEIRUT

Middle East

Photo album of Condoleezza rice found in Gadhafi compound

TRIPOLI: Libyan rebels who took control of Moammar Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziyah compound made a surprising discovery in one of the buildings: a photo album with pictures of Condoleezza Rice.

Though maybe the discovery isn’t surprising. Over the years, the Libyan leader’s comments and actions related to the former secretary of state have raised a few eyebrows.

Consider how he talked about her in an interview with Al-Jazeera television in 2007, where he hinted that then-President George W. Bush’s top diplomat wielded considerable influence in the Arab world.

“I support my darling black African woman,” he said. “I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders. … Leezza, Leezza, Leezza ... I love her very much. I admire her, and I’m proud of her, because she’s a black woman of African origin.”

The following year, Gadhafi and Rice had an opportunity to meet when the secretary of state paid a historic visit to Libya – one that made steps toward normalizing relations after the United States went decades without an ambassador in Tripoli.

Gadhafi welcomed Rice in his home – one that President Ronald Reagan once ordered bombed in retaliation for Libya’s attack on a German disco.

He presented Rice with a diamond ring, a lute, a locket with an engraved likeness of himself inside and an inscribed edition of “The Green Book.” The haul was worth $212,000, though rules prevent her, or any other U.S. official, from keeping gifts from foreign leaders.

When Libyan rebels moved into Gadhafi’s Tripoli stronghold and took control, there, left behind in the compound, was Gadhafi’s dear Leezza, her image affixed to the pages of a photo book.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 26, 2011, on page 9.

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