The State Department said Wednesday it continues to talk to Libyan officials about next month’s visit to the New York area by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly continued to hold out the possibility of a compromise over Gadhafi’s reported plans to pitch his Bedouin tent on the grounds of a Libyan diplomatic residence in suburban New Jersey during his visit to participate in the annual United Nations General Assembly. Gadhafi last week permitted a large welcome for Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988. Al Megrahi was released by Scottish authorities on compassionate medical grounds and the celebration of his homecoming has infuriated some families of the Pan Am 103 victims, some of whom live in New Jersey. Both U.S. senators from New Jersey, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez , have written Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to restrict Gadhafi to the area of the city immediately surrounding the United Nations headquarters. “The most important thing here is that we respect the feelings of the many families who live in the New York area who lost family members in that horrific bombing,” Kelly said at his midday briefing at the State Department. “We’re hoping that — and we are expecting — we will be able to come to some sort of agreement where all these sensitivities are respected. … Some kind of understanding regarding where Mr. Gadhafi will stay that is respectful of the sensitivities of residents.”
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As of now, Libyan diplomats can travel wherever they wish in the United States. Under a provision of the U.S. Foreign Missions Act, however, the United States can impose restrictions on the use of diplomatic residences, such as the one in New Jersey. The Libyan leader often takes an ornate tent with him on international trips, using it to entertain and hold meetings.