Opinion: Gov. Corzine: Libya’s Kadafi ‘not welcome in New Jersey’

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The Libyan government has owned an embassy (read: 25-room mansion) in Englewood, N.J., since 1982. And Col. Moammar Kadafi, the country’s sometime-pariah president, was planning to stay there – and pitch one of his famous tents on the lawn – during his visit to New York next month for the United Nations General Assembly. In preparing, construction workers were even renovating the place.

But the hero’s welcome that Kadafi gave last week to Pan Am 103 terrorist Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi – the only man convicted of killing 270 people by blowing up an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 – has infuriated the good people of New Jersey.

‘People are infuriated that a financier of terrorism, who in recent days gave a hero’s welcome to a convicted terrorist, would be welcomed to our shores, let alone reside in our city,’ said Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes, the grandson of a Holocaust survivor. ‘My citizens are furious, I am furious.

‘I want him barred from New Jersey,’ agreed Democratic Rep. John Adler. “Let him land at the U.N. by helicopter, do his business and get out of the country.’

Ditto Gov. Jon Corzine, up for reelection this year, who declared: ‘Kadafi is not welcome in New Jersey.’

The decision by the Scottish government to free the terminally-ill 57-year-old on compassionate grounds infuriated families of the Lockerbie victims, many of them from New Jersey.

And it has sent the State Department searching the law books to see if the government can preclude the Libyan leader from pitching his tent in New Jersey.

‘We can impose restrictions on the use of diplomatic residences,’ State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the other day. ‘That’s a very broad provision, and we’re expecting that we’ll be able to come to some sort of agreement where all of these sensitivities are respected.’

Why a tent? Kadafi, who has camped out in such beautiful settings as the Elysee Palace in Paris, says the unusual sleeping arrangements help him stay true to his Bedouin roots.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo Credit: Mel Evans/Associated Press

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