Mismari: Annan entered the tent in terror and the leader in person oversaw the plan to humiliate him (4)

Mismari: Annan entered the tent in terror and the leader in person oversaw the plan to humiliate him (4)

Amman – Ghassan Charbel |

He wore white gloves in order not to shake hands with Mubarak and I was surprised when Berlusconi kissed his hand


What more could Muammar Gaddafi possibly want? The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi came to the People’s General Conference. He made a speech then stepped up to the leader of the revolution and kissed his hand. The Chief of Protocol, Nuri Mismari was standing there and he was surprised by the scene. Later on, Mismari was asked, on Italian television, whether he felt ashamed for having worked with Gaddafi, to which he replied: “I used to work with Libya and not with Gaddafi. I used to work for Libya. I am not Gaddafi’s servant. The person who should be ashamed is the one, who rolled out red carpets for him, and the one who had the honor band playing music for him, and the one who kissed his hand. I did not do that.”


Gaddafi felt, deep down inside, that the West is looking for a way to please him as it was eying the “black gold” in Libya. The West forgave Gaddafi for his bloody history within Libya and it rejoiced in rehabilitating him and improving his image. Then, the surprise came through the Arab Spring.


Gaddafi used to enjoy insulting other leaders. He used to run late for his appointments or suddenly modify his schedule to confuse his hosts and break protocol. He purposefully annoyed his guests by giving them appointments in the desert. He once came up with a plan to insult a visitor of his, Kofi Annan, who had come to discuss the Lockerbie issue. He received him at night, in the desert, in a dreadful camp. The visitor got scared and imagined there were lions in the desert, which was completely dark except for the colonel’s tent.


One trip actually flattered the ego of the revolution’s leader. The North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-Il received him with human waves and fantastic art work. He thought that this scene was a kind of acknowledgment to his uniqueness as a leader. This is perhaps the reason why he used to insist on using the term, “My Son,” when addressing a number of young Arab leaders as well as a man called, Barack Obama. He used to do that on purpose in order to downplay his interlocutors.


Below is the fourth part of in the interview:


Q. Did Gaddafi visit Lenin’s tomb in Moscow?

A. Yes; and he said that the man died so why would they spend money in order to tend to his embalmed corpse?


Q. Which international leader was he fond of?

A. Muammar Gaddafi!


Q. What kind of books did he read?

A. He used to read a lot of military, political, and civilian history books. Before visiting any state, he would get himself up to speed with its entire history throughout the trip; and when he met with the leaders of those countries, he would pick something out from their history in order to surprise them with it, sometimes things they didn’t even know.


Q. Such as whom?

A. Such as South Africa. You just reminded me of an incident. He once made me feel embarrassed vis-à-vis Nelson Mandela. At the middle of the night, he called me on the leadership hotline and he asked if I was awake. I told him that I was. He then told me to get dressed and to fetch Mandela, who was visiting Libya after having left the post of president. I spoke to Mandela’s adviser and he said: “Are you insane? The man is asleep and he is sick and his knees hurt.” I told him: “these are the instructions.” He said: “What kind of instructions? Do you think that Mandela is an employee of yours? I will not allow anyone to wake him up.” Mandela’s secretary also learned of the request and she categorically refused. She called Gaddafi and told him that. He then said to me: “Tell them that this is important. Convince them. I know you’re good at this.” I hung up and told them what just happened but they insisted on refusing.


Q. Is it true that he purposefully humiliated Ban Ki-moon when he was brought to Tripoli while Gaddafi was in the desert?

A. He used to bring them all to the desert. He once insulted Hosni Mubarak. But the most interesting incident took place with Kofi Annan when he came to Libya to discuss the Lockerbie issue. That was a real insult. Annan arrived in Libya during the day but Gaddafi said, “Don’t bring him to me until nighttime.” Gaddafi’s tent was erected at the border of the desert, 200 meters away from the coastal road. However, he gave his instructions to carry out a long detour before reaching the camp. He then ordered that all the lights in the camp be put out except for his own tent. Annan was scared especially when he heard the camels. He asked me if this was the sound of lions and I reassured him. I noted that his face was very pale because he was so worried. Gaddafi had also given instructions to take Annan back through the same road.

Hosni Mubarak was taken to the desert, which upset him. He said, “If there’s a desert next time, then I will not go to Libya.” That is the reason why, Gaddafi started to meet him at the Ouagadougou Airport or at the neighboring guest house. Mubarak had unequivocally said: “Do not ever think of the desert again. I will not go there again.” But Mubarak used to understand Gaddafi and he used to visit him during Ramadan and have iftar with him.


Q. What about Gaddafi’s relationship with the Sudanese President, Jaafar al-Nimeiri?

A. At the beginning, they had a good relationship, which later on grew sour. During Nimeiri’s last days, Gaddafi went to Sudan in an official visit and he made sure to visit Nimeiri and to see him as he was handicapped. Gaddafi faked compassion and he started asking him about what he needs. He intended to humiliate him of course. But he programmed this visit to sound different to the media.


Q. Did he use to like Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi?

A. No he didn’t, but he strongly supported him.


Q. What about his relationship with President Omar Hassan al-Bachir?

A. It grew bad at the end because Gaddafi supported South Sudan


Q. What about his relationship with the South Sudan Leader, John Garang?

A. Garang visited him on many instances. After his death, his wife came to obtain aid for the South. He met with her in Kampala.


Q. Were you with him when he met with Idi Amin?

A. When Idi Amin stepped down and came to Libya, I was his assigned escort. He was a fun but stupid person.


Q. What’s the deal with the King of Africa’s Kings?

A. African kings are traditional kings. They are a sort of local sultans and tribes’ leaders. Gaddafi wanted to befriend them. Someone gave him the idea that he can form a council for these kings. He was led to believe that these “kings” can influence their tribes and people. The idea got to him and he started meeting with them. He later on appointed Bachir Saleh, the head of his office, to speak to Dr. Rafeh al-Madani, who was the head of the office of Africa’s kings and sultans. During one meeting, he told him: “We want you to declare Muammar Gaddafi as the king of Africa’s kings.” Dr. Rafeh was of course embarrassed. He told him, “This is not up to us. We are not a state. The kings convene and the states meet in order to assign an emperor. This should be done through agreements and treaties.” Bachir Saleh said: “I was asked to run this by you.” Of course, they were embarrassed and they refused. The poor man kept trying. Bachir Saleh asked for a crown and it turned out that one of the kings has a golden crown. They took this crown and declared Gaddafi the king of Africa’s kings and they crowned him. This was a masquerade that Gaddafi had asked for and insisted on. At the Arab Summit in Qatar, the Qatari prince brought out the title of the king of Africa’s king in a mocking way. At the summit as well, Gaddafi listed his titles and said: “I am the dean of the Arab rulers and the king of Africa’s kings,” etc… He didn’t want to hear the title of ‘president’ or anything like that. He officially asked to be designated as “Leader Muammar Gaddafi, the King of Africa’s Kings.” We sent out memos to the African Union, the European Union, and the United Nations, telling them that Gaddafi’s official title is, “the Leader of the Revolution, Muammar Gaddafi, and the King of Africa’s Kings.”


Q. Did he handle money issues?

A. He had no relationships with money. His children used to manage the money


Q. Wasn’t he the one who decided on aid matters?

A. Of course. Not one dime could be given to any state’s or party’s president except through his direct orders.


Q. Did he use to sign papers?

A. Suggestions used to be presented to him in bullet points and he would mark the ones he liked, and they would then be implemented.


Q. What’s the story with his strange clothing?

A. They were traditional African garments. He was the king of Africa’s kings and he was calling for the African Union and wearing everything that had to do with Africa. He used to like flashy attires and he also used to wear nearly feminine clothes.


Q. Did he have offshore bank accounts?

A. Yes, I think that he had secret accounts


Q. Did his children have a lot of money?

A. Gaddafi’s children are the main cause for his demise.


Q. Gaddafi used to like to be around intellectuals. Did he embarrass you in that sense, like when he would go to Cairo and meet with the intellectuals for instance?

A. Yes. He would bring them together and insult them. He would point out their errors and tell them, “This is not how you write this,” etc…and this used to embarrass us.


Q. Did he spend money on the media?

A. Only on those who polished his image. He was not content with the Libyan media


Q. Is it true that he once wore white gloves to the Arab Summit in order to avoid shaking hands with King Hassan II?

A. No, he did that in order to avoid shaking hands with Hosni Mubarak. That was back at the Morocco Summit. When we asked him about the reason why he was wearing the white gloves, he said: “I don’t want to shake hands with Mubarak because of the David stables,” meaning Camp David.


Q. There were rumors that he reached out for his gun and threatened to kill King Hussein?

A. Indeed. A confrontation took place between the two of them following Black September. He wanted to attack him. Then, a decision was issued banning leaders from entering the summit’s meetings with their weapons.


Q. Did he admire Gamal Abdel Nasser?

A. At the beginning of the revolution, he did. But later on, when Gaddafi came up with the so-called Green Book, he mocked the charter of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Had the latter been alive, the two would have clashed.


Q. Were you working during the American raid?

A. No


Q. How did you feel when you watched Gaddafi’s death on TV?

A. Honestly, he shouldn’t have been killed. He should have been tried like Saddam so that we could hear what he had to say. Unfortunately, there was anger and hatred; and there were people who suffered a lot as a result of his actions especially during the February 17 events. People had a motive for revenge, which made them act the way they did. It was a spontaneous behavior. Nothing was premeditated. I also believe that there was an external agenda that didn’t want Gaddafi to be brought to court so that he wouldn’t talk about the secrets that he had.


Q. Who do you mean?

A. Some rulers from the West and the East


Q. Is it true that he called Barack Obama during the summit of the eight in Italy, “My son?”

A. Yes. He used to do that on purpose in order to belittle people. We used to beg him not to say “My Son” when addressing leaders. Abdel Rahman Shalgam (the former foreign minister) also pointed this out to him but he used to say: “No, no. This is my own business. These are my sons.” He used to say it to Bashar al-Assad and to the Jordanian and Moroccan kings. He also said it to Obama. Bachir Saleh, the head of his bureau, recommended that we don’t bring up this issue again because he was adamant on using this term.


Q. Do you remember anything from the Moscow trip during which he met with President Dmitri Medvedev?

A. Medvedev invited us to a special dinner. There were songs and an orchestra. We heard back then that the lady who was in charge of fixing romantic dates for the colonel tried to convince the singer of visiting the leader, but she refused. This was that lady’s job and she also played that part when we went to Ukraine. During the reception party in Kremlin, Medvedev and Putin and Gaddafi were there. I was there with them.


Q. Was alcohol served?

A. Yes it was but not to him.


Q. You mean he doesn’t drink?

A. No he doesn’t as far as I know


Q. Did he smoke?

A. That depended on his mood. He would smoke in the summits’ conferences when he was upset or indifferent. He once did that in a conference in Tunisia. He did not want to sit with the leaders so he stayed in a lounge alone. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali came to him and begged him to join them but he refused. Then, Abdelaziz Bouteflika came as well. I think that the Prince of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Ben Khalifa al-Thani also came followed by Sheikh Sabbah Al Ahmad (the current Emir of Kuwait). Gaddafi liked this kind of scenes. He was smoking and Abdel Rahman Shalgam was with him. Sheikh Sabbah Al Ahmad asked him about the reason why he was smoking to which he replied: “I am smoking because of the worries and concerns that you’re all giving me.”


Q. Were there any problems during the Arab summit in Damascus?

A. There were regular problems. He extended his stay because he wanted to meet with President Bashar al-Assad and his brother, Maher. They both came to where he was staying. They spoke with him and he had admiration for them.


Q. What did he say about the meeting?

A. He said that these were smart and charismatic people; that they followed up on economic matters and that they had a good deal of knowledge. I heard him say that President Hafez al-Assad had left lions behind. He was pleased with his meeting with them. When he was pleased with a meeting, he would praise the people. During the flight back, he was conversing with Ahmad Gadaf al-Dam, Youssef al-Dobari, and Abdel Rahman Shalgam. Bachir Saleh and I were next to them. Of course, his speech at the summit turned many heads as he told the Arab leaders that their turn will come, meaning that they will be executed like Saddam.


Q. Did he have a special relationship with the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi?

A. Of course he had.


Q. Is it true that Berlusconi kissed his hand?

A. Yes. That was no secret


Q. Where did he do that?

A. At the People’s General Conference, i.e. the parliament. I was right there next to him.


Q. Weren’t you surprised?

A. I was very surprised. He came to the People’s General Conference and he made a speech there. He then approached Gaddafi and kissed his hand


Q. Did Gaddafi hate the Italians?

A. In appearance


Q. Has he always asked them for compensations?

A. Yes he did, and through an agreement with Berlusconi, he took with his right hand and gave back with the left. In other terms, he gave them projects and all the things that they wanted. I was with them in the car doing the translation when Gaddafi said: You will give us with the right hand and take back from us with the left. Berlusconi laughed.


Q. What else do you remember?

A. I was asked, by the Italian television, whether I was ashamed for having worked with Gaddafi. I told them: “I used to work with Libya and not with Gaddafi; I used to work for Libya. I am not Gaddafi’s servant. The person who should be ashamed is the one who had rolled out red carpets for him, had the honor band playing music for him, and kissed his hand. I did not do that.” That was my comment on the incident that took place in 2009 if I recall correctly.


Q. What were they talking about?

A. They were talking about Libyan-Italian relations, investment, etc… Berlusconi was trying to tempt Gaddafi. He offered him to go back to Sardinia and to spend a night at his place but the Libyan delegation was worried about a scandal.


Q. They brought Italian girls to him and he lectured them about Islam?

A. The issue of the Islam is a pretext. This was only about girls. Mabruka Sherif used to bring the girls. He would sit with them and talk to them. Pictures would be taken and he would later on choose from them. This would all be aired as a lecture on television.


Q. Did this happen in Italy or Libya?

A. In both Italy and Libya

Q. But Libya is a conservative society?

A. He used to go to female centers or universities and film them. He would then bring his guards to convince the girl that he wanted. This is no secret. Everyone knew that.

Q. He had no respect for values?

A. Not at all

Q. But this is a country of tribes and clans that we’re talking about

A. Do you think he understood what the tribes and the clans meant? He used to claim that he is a Bedouin and a tribal man and that he is the son of a tribe and a clan. However, he was very far from their ethics.

Q. Did he take Viagra pills?

A. I don’t know. Bachir Saleh told me that he took shots. Berlusconi reportedly used to give him advice in this regard.

Q. Were you saddened by his fate? Or did you expect it for him?

A. I had said that this man will not give up or step down; that he will not be leaving Libya; and that he will stay there until the very end. I said that to the leaders I met. I do wish that he was brought to trial and humiliated and tried. This would have been a payback for the prisoners that he threw in the Abu Salim prison and for those that he wrongfully accused and tortured.

Q. Was he the one who ordered the Abu Salim prison massacre?

A. Of course. A massacre like this with so much killing and butchering cannot be done without his knowledge. He’s the one who gave the orders.

Q. Did you accompany him during his visit to see Kim Jong-Il?

A. Of course. The Korean leader also gave me a medal.

Q. How did the meeting go?

A. There was a lot of intimacy and friendship. Kim Jong-Il took a lot of care of Gaddafi. He threw a reception for him that one can only see in Disney movies. It was a fantastic and unparalleled reception. People were wearing different colors. If you look at them from the air, you would see the colors of a rainbow in the streets. Kim Jong-Il and Gaddafi rode in a convertible car. When Gaddafi came down, he asked me: “When Kim Jong-Il comes to Libya, will you be able to organize this kind of reception for him?” I told him: “This man has massive capacities.” Kim Jong-Il then staged a major celebration with background scenes. However, this can be done in Libya. There were scenes of waves and deserts all formed by people. There were scenes on how the land was reclaimed and scenes about water floods. It was fantastic.

Q. Did he admire Kim Jong-Il?

A. Yes, he did admire him a lot

Q. Despite the fact that he was a communist?

A. Yes despite that, and even though he did not like communism.

Q. Did he meet Kim Jong-Il’s son?

A. No he didn’t.

Q. What about the trip to China?

A. He got a good reception there but nothing like the one in North Korea. He had an official and very nice reception at the airport. Some tough discussions were conducted with the Chinese. We visited the Great Wall of China; we had a good program and the Chinese took care of him.

Q. Did he ask them to provide him with weapons?

A. He asked for technology. They stipulated that he must have no relations with Taiwan, and this was indeed the case. But two years prior to the February 17 events, Saif al-Islam built a relationship with a Taiwanese group and a Taiwanese delegation came to Libya. The Chinese found out as they were spying on them. The Taiwanese delegation stayed at the Mitiga base and the Chinese found out. The Chinese ambassador asked for a meeting with me and he protested to the fact that Libya received the delegation. I told him that he did not receive anyone officially and that we have no relations with Taiwan. He said: “We know what the protocol cars look like.” I told him: “There is no specific kind of protocol cars. You will find many Mercedes cars.” They had taken many protocol cars and equipped them with civilian plates to make them unrecognizable.

Q. What about his relations with Fidel Castro?

A. Castro came to Libya and I was there. Gaddafi had planned to visit Cuba, Nicaragua and Peru when we went to the UN. However, this wasn’t safe. The special security forces presented an intelligence report indicating that he better not go. So we went to Venezuela instead.

Q. Did Gaddafi like Hugo Chavez?

A. They were very close friends. I have photos of the two of them together.

Q. How was Castro’s visit to Libya and did he present him with financial support?

A. He helped him a lot and he liked him. The visit coincided with the death of Aisha, Gaddafi’s mother. She died on the day Castro left. He came to the office and I asked him if he wanted to present his condolences. Castro said to Gaddafi: “I am surprised. Your mother passed away and you’re dealing with this in a regular manner.” Gaddafi replied: “This is fate. Her time has come.”


Q. Was Gaddafi close to his mother?

A. A lot

Q. And what about his father?

A. To a certain extent. He passed away after his mother and he was 84 years old.

Q. You accompanied him during his trips to the Soviet Union between 1977 and 1988. What were these trips like?

A. I was with him in all these trips. He was arrogant and the Soviets were sensitive about this. The trips took place during the time of Leonid Brezhnev.

Q. What happened?

A. He would set an appointment then be deliberately late. Then, Brezhnev would go and wait for him outside his room at the Kremlin until he came out. It was embarrassing. Brezhnev was old and he could barely walk. Gaddafi would say that he was coming and Brezhnev would wait and wait.

Q. What else annoyed Brezhnev?

A. The Russians were annoyed with this kind of behavior vis-à-vis the country’s leader. Gaddafi used to stir this kind of embarrassment with the aim of insulting people. During the official dinner, he made a speech where he discussed Islam and Afghanistan. This upset the Russians. As for the Albanian President, Anwar Khoja, he was thrilled with the speech because it insulted all the leaders. The Tirana Radio praised Gaddafi.

Q. What did he say about Afghanistan?

A. He told them that they must take care of the Muslims and Islam… He was preaching.

Q. Abdel Salam al-Treki told me that he halted the discussions in order to pray in the Kremlin?

A. He always did that not only in the Kremlin. He did the same thing in Libya during his meetings with non-Muslim guests.


Part 5 tomorrow