OTTAWA — Moammar Gadhafi is coming to Canada with his Bedouin tents, all-woman security troupe, and notorious reputation in tow.
But the Libyan dictator will be facing a cold shoulder rather than a warm handshake during his one-day stopover in St. John’s, N.L., sometime next week.
The Harper government says it plans to deliver a stern lecture to Gadhafi over the “hero’s welcome” he gave to the man convicted of the infamous Lockerbie bombing.
“Prime Minister Harper has asked Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon to go to St. John’s and meet the Libyan leader,” said Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas.
“Minister Cannon will voice Canada’s strong disapproval over the hero’s welcome organized for Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the man responsible for the Lockerbie terrorist bombing.
“It constituted an insult to all the victims who died including Canadians.”
Soudas emphasized that it is not an official visit, noting that it’s common for transatlantic flights to stop in Newfoundland and Labrador for refuelling.
However, it’s not clear if Gadhafi will agree to the meeting during a stop on his way home from the United Nations.
The African strongman delivered his first-ever speech to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday — a rambling, disconnected 90-minute affair.
Gadhafi seized power in a military coup 40 years ago and quickly became an international pariah known for his support of terrorism and eccentric lifestyle, including travelling with tents and a 40-member force of female body guards.
He partially rehabilitated his image by abandoning support for terrorism and paying huge reparations over Lockerbie.
But he drew international rebuke again last month for throwing a huge welcome-home celebration for al-Megrahi, who was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds.
The national fete for a convicted terrorist outraged many, especially the relatives of the 270 victims — including three Canadians — killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
Al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent, was found guilty by a special Scottish court in the Netherlands in 2001 and sentenced to at least 27 years in prison. He was released last month after he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.
He continues to insist that he is innocent and has posted his legal defence — part of an appeal that was dropped shortly before he was released — on the Internet in an effort to clear his name.