Gadhafi Slammed At NJ Rally


gadhafi1More than 200 people gathered today in northern New Jersey to tell Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi that he’s not welcome in their community. Gov. Jon Corzine was among those attending the event in Englewood, where the Libyan government has been renovating an estate ahead of Gadhafi’s first U.S. visit, scheduled for next month. Gadhafi had been expected to pitch a ceremonial Bedouin-style tent on the grounds, but officials say those plans have been scrapped.Gadhafi is unwelcome in New Jersey, which lost 38 residents in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The attack, which killed 270 people, is widely believed to be the work of Libyan intelligence.

Speaking at the rally, Corzine called the Lockerbie bombing a precursor to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, noting New Jersey and New York suffered disproportionately in both incidents.

Washington, D.C.-based representatives of Gadhafi told New Jersey Congressman Steve Rothman he decided against coming to Englewood.

“I am very pleased that Moammar Quaddafi will apparently not be coming to Englewood. His appearance would have presented unnecessary safety and security issues for the residents of Englewood and the Libyan diplomats,” said Rothman.

“I want to thank President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the literally dozens of their appointees I have had the pleasure to work so closely with over the past seven days in achieving this result. I also want to thank the Libyan government for their hard work and consideration in resolving this matter in such a positive fashion,” he added.

Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes had threatened to go to court to prevent Gadhafi from staying in the recently renovated mansion.

“If the U.S. State Department won’t shut this down, we will,” Englewood Wildes said. “New Jersey’s governor, its two U.S. senators and its U.S. congressmen are all on board on this.”

Libyan intelligence is widely believed to have orchestrated the 1988 attack on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed all 259 aboard — including 38 people from New Jersey.

Gadhafi has worked to try to rehabilitate his image in recent years but angered the U.S. and Britain last week with the warm welcome given to the Lockerbie bomber, who was released from a Scottish prison and returned to Libya. A cheering crowd at the Tripoli airport greeted Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was accompanied by Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam. Scotland released al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds because he is dying of cancer.

Already, Gov. Corzine, U.S. senators and representatives from New York and New Jersey have protested Gadhafi’s plan to stay at the sprawling estate in the upscale community of about 12 miles from Manhattan when he addresses the UN next month. Gadhafi is expected to pitch a ceremonial Bedouin-style tent on the grounds for entertainment purposes, after a request to erect it in Manhattan’s Central Park was rejected due to logistics and security concerns, according to officials.

“I support what Mayor Wildes is trying to do,” said Kara Weipz, of Mount Laurel, N.J., whose 20-year-old brother Richard Monetti was on board Pan Am Flight 103. “The one thing we do not want is Gadhafi in New Jersey.”

{CBS Broadcasting/Noam Newscenter}