WikiLeaks cables reveal personal details on world leaders

Hundreds of thousands of State Department documents leaked Sunday revealed a hidden world of backstage international diplomacy, divulging candid comments from world leaders and detailing occasional U.S. pressure tactics overseas.
Sunday, November 28, 2010; 8:57 PM

Analysis of world leaders gets personal

The U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks offer unvarnished insights into the personal proclivities of world leaders and how American diplomats privately view them.

According to one such memo, Moammar Gaddafi, the leader of Libya, has an intense dislike of staying above the first floor of hotels and cannot climb more than 35 steps. His 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 traveling 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 United Nations General Assembly.

In the cable, Gene A. Cretz, U.S. ambassador to Tripoli, concluded: "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 many distinctly undiplomatic sketches of the world's leading statesmen contained in the documents released Sunday. Among the highlights, as reported by Britain's Guardian newspaper:

- U.S. diplomats quoted sources describing 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 U.S. 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 U.S. Embassy in Moscow wrote in late 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 U.S. official in Rome. Another cable remarked on Berlusconi's "frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard."

- 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."

- Philip Rucker


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