Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is no longer expected to stay in Englewood, N.J., when he attends meetings at the United Nations next month, according to U.S. sources.
Rep. Steve Rothman, D-N.J., whose district includes Englewood, said Friday he was told by Libya's representatives in Washington that Gadhafi would not stay there.
"I am very pleased that Moammar Quadhafi 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," Rothman said in a statement, noting that he has not received official confirmation from either the White House or the State Department.
U.S. officials say that the Libyans are now looking for a hotel in New York City where Gadhafi can stay on the first floor because the eccentric leader refuses to ride in elevators.
Multiple State Department officials say they have received diplomatic assurances from the Libyans that Gadhafi will not stay on Libyan-owned property in northern New Jersey. Gadhafi had originally hoped to pitch the Bedouin tent he stays in on foreign trips in Central Park. After that was denied, the Libyans proposed he set up camp at the Englewood compound.
The move caused an uproar among residents and local politicians who saw it as another slap in the face after Gadhafi's warm welcome home for the convicted bomber of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people in 1988.
Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was released by Scotland last week on "compassionate grounds" because he is said to be terminally ill with cancer. He was greeted upon his return to Libya by adoring crowds. Gadhafi later went to meet him in person.
Many families of the Lockerbie victims reside in and around Englewood. The State Department conveyed their concerns to the Libyans, spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday.
Crowley hinted Thursday that Gadhafi would not stay in New Jersey.
"I think we are confident that when ... the U.N. General Assembly convenes, that the Libyan delegation will have suitable accommodations and that they will respect the earnest wishes of the people of the region," Crowley told reporters.
'The Gadhafi Factor'
Still, despite diplomatic assurances, a senior State Department official cautions that Gadhafi, once famously branded the "mad dog" of the Middle East by former President Ronald Reagan, may override the diplomatic assurances and choose to stay in Englewood anyway.
"You always have the Gadhafi factor," the senior official said, but, he quickly added, "we are confident that he is not going to stay there."
The Libyan embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately return a call for comment.