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Now, Gaddafi’s tent irks elite American village

For the people of Bedford the problem was not so much getting Colonel Gaddafi off the UN podium - more about getting his tent off their lawn.

world Updated: Sep 25, 2009 00:00 IST
Paul Harris

For the people of Bedford the problem was not so much getting Colonel Gaddafi off the UN podium - more about getting his tent off their lawn.

The exclusive community, nestling in pretty wooded hills 30 miles north of Manhattan, is home to Hollywood actors, media moguls and ultra-wealthy bankers. But when the Libyan leader's Bedouin tent was pitched amid their mansions, horse stables and country lanes some residents took umbrage.

“I think it stinks. I know it is because he is at the UN, but that is another place he shouldn't be," fumed one shopper walking by Bedford's village green, who declined to give her name.

The town's leaders agreed. When news suddenly broke of a mysterious construction taking shape on land owned by Donald Trump, the local council swiftly tried to shut it down. Teams of workers, who spoke no English, were told to stop work. A criminal suit was threatened by Bedford attorney Joel Sachs, who called the tent an "illegal structure".

Local Democratic congressman John Hall condemned the idea of Gaddafi visiting his district. "This sponsor of terror is not welcome here," he said.

Trump appeared to suggest he had no idea that a rental deal he had struck with Arab businessmen was in fact for the tent. "The property was leased on a short-term basis to Middle Eastern partners who may or may not have a relationship to Mr Gaddafi. We are looking into the matter now," a Trump spokeswoman said.

Gaddafi had initially wanted to pitch his tent in Central Park, but was turned down.

Bedford businessman Greg Raue said the town shunned the spotlight, priding itself on a discreet attitude to wealth and the famous. "If you have a lot of money and want to show off, you don't come to Bedford. People in this town keep things to themselves," he said.

(Read editorial on Muammar Gaddafi on Comment page)