Gadhafi Seeks To Pitch Tent In N.J.

When Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi attends the U.N. General Assembly next month, he'll need a place to pitch his tent — literally. Gadhafi often travels with and uses a large bedouin tent, but the city of New York has said he can't set it up in Central Park. An alternate site in northern New Jersey is under dispute. Rep. Steven Rothman of New Jersey offers his insight.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Now, where Moammar Gadhafi, a bedouin tent and suburban New Jersey collide. Next month the Libyan leader is attending the UN General Assembly session in New York. Gadhafi reportedly wants to set up a large tent at a property in Englewood, New Jersey owned by Libya's UN mission. And some in New Jersey are trying to make sure that doesn't happen. Among them, Congressman Steven Rothman, who represents the district that includes Englewood. And Congressman Rothman, I gather that Mr. Gadhafi has set up this tent in Cairo, Paris, Rome -wanted to do it apparently in Central Park, was turned down and now maybe heading to Englewood. What are you hearing about his plans?

Representative STEVEN ROTHMAN (Democrat, New Jersey): Well, I heard on Saturday that that was the rumor that Gadhafi wanted to pitch his tents, literally, in Englewood for the opening ceremonies of the General Assembly of the UN in mid-September.

BLOCK: And would he be staying in the tent? What's the idea there?

Rep. ROTHMAN: Well, that was the rumor. As soon as I heard about it, I called the White House and the State Department to find out if the rumor was true. It is not. And then if the rumor was true, how to go about stopping it.

BLOCK: We should say that you are a former mayor of Englewood, New Jersey and when the Libyans got this property in Englewood, there were stipulations attached to how it could be used, right?

Rep. ROTHMAN: Yes, when we found out that they had purchased the property in 1982, we enlisted the help of the State Department to help us get restrictions placed on that mansion that were accepted by the Libyan government and had been in effect for the last 26 years.

BLOCK: And those say what?

Rep. ROTHMAN: They say that only the ambassador to the UN from Libya can occupy that mansion and only with his wife and kids and no one else from Libya is to occupy that mansion, including Moammar Gadhafi.

BLOCK: And that would include just a visit - when you say occupy the mansion?

Rep. ROTHMAN: That would indeed include the visit. The point thing that there is no place in the suburbs of New Jersey or anywhere else, or any other single family neighborhood outside of New York City which is equipped to provide security as opposed to our neighborhoods. That should be forced - have their citizens endangered and have the diplomat endangered in their midst. New York City receives federal funds, state funds and UN funds for that purpose. And that's why these folks belong in New York City, not in the leafy(ph) suburbs surrounding New York.

BLOCK: This issue, of course, is especially acute right now because of the release of the Lockerbie bomber who was sent home from Scotland back to celebrations in Libya. Now, Gadhafi is coming here.

Rep. ROTHMAN: Well, it is most unfortunate. Many of us still regard Gadhafi as a murderous thug with American blood on his hands. And were particularly revolted by the obscene celebration that Gadhafi sponsored for the mass-murdering Lockerbie bomber. And - but we were against Gadhafi coming here before that happened back 26 years ago. And I believe very strongly that we will be successful once again.

BLOCK: Well, Congressman Rothman, thanks for talking with us.

Rep. ROTHMAN: You're very welcome.

BLOCK: That's Congressman Steven Rothman, the Democrat from New Jersey.

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