By David Arnott
"Deeply bizarre and deeply creepy."
That's how the State Department is describing a surprising find inside the compound of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi: a photo album filled with page after page of pictures of Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state who visited Tripoli in 2008. The pictures were first highlighted here on PhotoBlog and went on to be published around the world.
The album is just the latest addition to a bizarre collection of loot discovered by rebel fighters ransacking Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound. Earlier this week, PhotoBlog published images of the Libyan leader's eccentric fashion accessories and his daughter's golden mermaid couch.
Ammar Abd Rabbo / Abaca
Rebels examine a photo album of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which was found in Moammar Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, Libya, on August 24.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Thursday said she hasn’t seen pictures of the album. “I think I don’t need to see the photos, but bizarre and creepy are good adjectives to describe much of Gadhafi’s behavior,” Nuland said. “It doesn't surprise me. It's deeply bizarre and deeply creepy, though, if it is as you described.”
Though maybe the discovery isn't that surprising. Over the years, the Libyan leader's comments and actions related to the former secretary of state have raised a few eyebrows.
Consider how he talked about her in an interview with Al-Jazeera television in 2007, where he hinted that then-President George W. Bush's top diplomat wielded considerable influence in the Arab world.
Mahmud Turkia / AFP-Getty Images, file
Moammar Gadhafi poses with Condoleezza Rice prior to a meeting in Tripoli on September 5, 2008. Rice's was the first such visit in more than half a century, marking a new chapter in Washington's reconciliation with the former enemy state.
"I support my darling black African woman," he said. "I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders. ... Leezza, Leezza, Leezza. ... I love her very much. I admire her, and I'm proud of her, because she's a black woman of African origin."
The following year, Gadhafi and Rice had an opportunity to meet when the secretary of state paid a historic visit to Libya — one that made steps toward normalizing relations after the United States went decades without an ambassador in Tripoli. (The U.S. "doesn't have any permanent enemies," she said during the trip.)
Gahdafi welcomed Rice in his home — one that President Ronald Reagan once ordered bombed in retaliation for Libya's attack on a German disco — for the traditional meal that ends the daylight fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Once again, he repeatedly addressed Rice — "Condi" to her friends — as "Leezza," her aides said.
During the visit, he presented Rice with a diamond ring, a lute, a locket with an engraved likeness of himself inside and an inscribed edition of "The Green Book," a personal political manifesto that explains his "Third Universal Theory for a new democratic society."
Together, the haul was worth $212,000. (Rules prevent her, or any other U.S. official, from keeping gifts from foreign leaders — they generally end up in a warehouse, and some may turn up years later in a presidential library.)
Flash forward three years, when Libyan rebels moved into Gadhafi's Tripoli stronghold and took control. There, left behind in the compound, was Gadhafi's dear Leezza, her image affixed to the pages of a photo book.
Sergey Ponomarev / AP
Rebel fighters look through a photo album they found inside Moammar Gadhafi's compound on August 24.
Rebels leafed through the album Wednesday after finding it as they rummaged through Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound.
AP photographer Sergey Ponomarev was with the rebels as they flicked through the album. "There were lots of rebels celebrating their victory," Ponomarev said. "It was still unsafe - loyalists were shelling the compound from time to time - but rebels were celebrating the seizure of the Gadhafi compound. They believe the victory is in their hands. Some of them even brought their children to the scene."
Rice did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the discovery of the photos.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.