WikiLeaks bares world leaders’ personal details

Monday, November 29, 2010

WASHINGTON - Thousands of US diplomatic cables leaked by whistleblower site WikiLeaks bares personal details of world leaders and what US diplomats think of them in private, a media report said Monday.

According to the Washington Post, a memo describes Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi having an intense dislike of staying above the first floor of hotels. The cables say that Gaddafi’s fear of flying creates logistical headaches for his staff, who make great attempts to avoid long flights over water.

And Gaddafi is reportedly obsessively dependent on travelling with a Ukrainian nurse described as a “voluptuous blonde” because she alone “knows his routine”.

The details on Gaddafi were included in a State Department cable in September 2009 during the leader’s visit to New York for the UN General Assembly.

In the cable, Gene A. Cretz, US ambassador to Tripoli, says: “While it is tempting to dismiss his many eccentricities as signs of instability, Qadhafi is a complicated individual who has managed to stay in power for forty years through a skillful balancing of interests and realpolitik methods.”

This is one of the hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables made available online and select media outlets in the US and Europe by the website. Quotes from the more than 250,000 cables obtained by the WikiLeaks website were also circulating on the Twitter.

Frank and often private descriptions of world leaders include US diplomats quoting sources to describe North Korean leader Kim Jong Il as a “flabby old chap” and someone who had suffered “physical and psychological trauma” as a result of his stroke.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy, in the view of US diplomats in Paris, has a “thin-skinned and authoritarian personal style” because of his tendency to rebuke his team and the French prime minister.

An official at the US Embassy in Moscow wrote in 2008 about the relationship between Russian President Dimitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that Medvedev “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman”.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is “feckless, vain and ineffective as a modern European leader”, according to a US official in Rome. Another cable remarked on Berlusconi’s “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard”.

American diplomats in Rome reported in 2009 on what their Italian contacts described as an extraordinarily close relationship between Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian prime minister, and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister and business magnate, including “lavish gifts”, lucrative energy contracts and a “shadowy” Russian-speaking Italian go-between, said the New York Times, one of the media organisations that had access to the leaked cables.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is described in one cable from Kabul as “an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts but was instead easily swayed by anyone who came to report even the most bizarre stories or plots against him”.

In 2007 Christopher W. Dell, the then US ambassador to Zimbabwe, calls Robert Mugabe, the authoritarian ruler of the African country, “a brilliant tactician” but mocked “his deep ignorance on economic issues (coupled with the belief that his 18 doctorates give him the authority to suspend the laws of economics)”.

The US government has termed the unauthorised release of classified documents “reckless” and “dangerous”.

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