By Joshua Rhett Miller, ,
Published May 16, 2015
The mayor of a New Jersey town where Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi plans to stay when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly next month says the "terrorist" should reconsider.
"This is an affront to the 33 families who live in New Jersey and lost their relatives because of him when they blew up Pan Am 103," Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes told FOXNews.com. "You can't buy that back. You can't give them their lives and memories back."
Qaddafi stoked international ire last week when he oversaw Libya's hero's welcome for Adbel Baset al-Megrahi, the lone man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan American Flight 103, which killed 270 people. Al-Megrahi, who is dying of cancer, was freed from a Scottish jail and returned to Libya on compassionate grounds.
The bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, is thought to be the work of Libyan intelligence and killed all 259 people aboard the flight, including 33 from New Jersey.
"As a Jew, I'm embarrassed and mortified to host him," Wildes continued. "I'm really upset that a financier of terrorism is coming to our shores. This is not acceptable and we need to make sure he does not come. This man embraced a convicted terrorist and is, at his core, a financier of terrorism himself."
Wildes said police costs to provide security for Qaddafi at a Libyan-owned estate on Palisade Avenue would total at least $20,000 per day. And the Libyans "haven't paid a nickel in property taxes in over 30 years," Wildes said.
U.S. Rep Steve Rothman, whose district includes Englewood, said city officials learned 26 years ago that the Libyan Mission to the United Nations had purchased the estate. Rothman said local officials hammered out a deal with the U.S. State Department limiting its use to recreational activities by the ambassador and his family. Qaddafi was expressly forbidden to live there, Rothman said.
State Department officials told FOXNews.com no decision had been made on the issue as of early Tuesday.
"I would urge any — any foreign leader to be sensitive to the concerns of victims of the most horrific terrorist attack before September 11th affecting American citizens," Ian Kelly told reporters Monday. "No decision has been made about where anybody's going to pitch a tent."
Meanwhile, other residents in the upscale community of 28,000 residents say Qaddafi, who has ruled Libya since 1969, is persona non grata.
"This is what happens when you have the path of appeasement," said Susan Cohen, of Cape May Court House, N.J. "He's getting everything he wants, and I guess that includes a trip to the state of New Jersey, which certainly doesn't need this."
Cohen's daughter Theodora, who was 20, died in the 1988 bombing.
"It's very peaceful here and we'd like to keep it that way, but what can we do if the government lets him in," said Bennie Wong, 58, who lives near the estate.
Another nearby resident, Dr. Joel Kopelman, 58, said he didn't want Qaddafi living in the town if the leader sees al-Megrahi as a hero.
Nicole DiCocco, a spokeswoman the Libyan Emassby in Washington, D.C., confirmed that the Libyan government owned the property but said it hasn't been decided if Qaddafi will stay there.
Wildes, for his part, said he plans on continuing to work with State Department officials to block the stay, which could last up to two weeks, he said.
"He has no business staying in my city even for a night," Wildes said. "People are mortified this is happening. They're offended, and frankly speaking, I don't blame them."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.