Wikileaks on Gadhafi: Very Strange, Very Wily

Diplomatic cables show U.S. amused at, and wary of, north African strongman.

ByABC News
February 21, 2011, 1:07 PM

Feb. 22, 2011 -- Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi may be fighting desperately in his characteristically unusual way to stem a popular uprising that threatens his 42-year reign, but dozens of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables show that in dealings with the eccentric strongman, U.S. officials have learned one thing clearly: Do not mistake personal quirks for weakness.

From a fear of the upper floors of buildings to his flair for flamenco dancing and horse racing, U.S. ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz said of Gadhafi in one 2009 cable, "While it is tempting to dismiss his many eccentricities as signs of instability, [Gadhafi] is a complicated individual who has managed to stay in power for nearly forty years through a skillful balancing of interests and realpolitik methods."

That cable, which was posted along with the others on the website Wikileaks, allows a rare glimpse into Gadhafi's abnormal proclivities ahead of his 2009 U.N. appearance in New York. In the cable, Cretz describes Gadhafi as having a fear of flying over water, a near obsession with those closest to him, including his "voluptuous blond" Ukrainian nurse, and a refusal to climb more than 35 steps at a time. The cable notes that Gadhafi does not like to fly more than eight hours at a time and plans overnight layovers to accommodate his rest.

The cable also discussed his plans to erect a massive Bedouin tent during his visit to New York -- the one that was temporarily erected on property owned by Donald Trump.

"Moammar Gadhafi has been described as both mercurial and eccentric, and our recent first-hand experience with him and his office... demonstrated the truth of both characterizations," said Cretz who was called back to Washington after the cable's publication by Wikileaks.