TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyan rebels who took control of Moammar Gadhafi’s sprawling compound made a surprising discovery in one of the buildings: a photo album with pictures of Condoleezza Rice.
Though maybe the discovery isn’t that surprising. Over the years, the Libyan leader’s comments and act
ions 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. (The U.S. “doesn’t have any permanent enemies,” she said during the trip.)
Gahdafi welcomed Rice in his home — one that President Ronald Reagan once ordered bombed in retaliation for Libya’s attack on a German disco — for the traditional meal that ends the daylight fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Once again, he repeatedly addressed Rice — “Condi” to her friends — as “Leezza,” her aides said.
During the visit, 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,” a personal political manifesto that explains his “Third Universal Theory for a new democratic society.”
Together, the haul was worth $212,000. (Rules prevent her, or any other U.S. official, from keeping gifts from foreign leaders — they generally end up in a warehouse, and some may turn up years later in a presidential library.)
Flash forward three years, 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.
Rebels leafed through the album Wednesday after finding it as they rummaged through Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound.
Rice did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the discovery of the photos. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was also asked about the album.
“I don’t need to see the photos,” she said. “But bizarre and creepy are good adjectives to describe much of Gadhafi’s behavior. So (it) doesn’t surprise me. It’s deeply bizarre and deeply creepy, though, if it is as you described.”
Eric Carvin reported from New York. Associated Press writers Matthew Lee, Anne Gearan and Calvin Woodward contributed to this story from Washington.