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Monday, 10 July, 2000, 19:17 GMT 20:17 UK
Gaddafi steals Lome limelight
Colonel Gaddafi's car at the Togo OAU summit
All the other OAU leaders arrived in a single bus
Libyan leader Colonel Muammur Gaddafi may be a relatively new convert to the cause of African unity, but he has been stealing the show at the Lome summit.

Colonel Gaddafi was the first to arrive at the summit venue, punching the air as he drew up in a huge white open-top limousine, while thousands of shouting supporters waved placards bearing his face.

All the other heads of state, including the host, President Eyadema of Togo, arrived later in a single bus.

Libya is providing much of the funding for the occasion, putting the Togolese in a weak position to complain about Colonel Gaddafi's ostentation.

Splendid isolation

More than 30 heads of state and government attending the summit have been put up at a modest state-run hotel, the Hotel 2 Fevrier.

But on this occasion, the Libyan leader abandoned African solidarity and took over an entire hotel himself.

Even so, he felt more at home in the grounds, so his entourage set up a bedouin-style tent in the hotel gardens, between the swimming pool and the beach, where the colonel held court on Sunday night for fellow heads of state.

The Libyan leader saw his picture everywhere in Togo
The Libyan leader saw his picture everywhere in Togo
Security is tight: machine-gun posts have been set up around the hotel, while floodlights guard the approach from the sea.

Outside, a giant flag of Colonel Gaddafi fluttered in the breeze.

Banners carrying some of his thoughts on the fight against imperialism and the need for greater African unity are prominent throughout the city.

Portrait rivalry

But there are limits, it seems, even to Togolese tolerance of their visitor's whims.

Inside the building, President Eyadema's picture holds pride of place in the lobby.

Hotel officials told the French news agency AFP that Colonel Gaddafi's staff had replaced it with one of their own leader - but that when Mr Eyadema saw this on Sunday, he had ordered his own picture restored.

And the Libyans did not always win the prize for flamboyance.

Reports from Lome suggest that Colonel Gaddafi's dancing girls - 100 young Libyan girls dressed modestly in long white robes with veiled heads - were distincly outshone by the 100 young smiling Togolese girls dressed in brightly coloured miniskirts, who whirled batons and waved pom-poms.

But from the start, Colonel Gaddafi signalled his intention of being different.

Leaving other heads of state to arrive in presidential jets, the Colonel reached Togo after trekking 5,000km across the African continent, via Niger, Burkina Faso and Ghana, in a convoy of 300 vehicles.

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See also:

02 May 00 | Middle East
Libya: From pariah to participant
01 May 00 | Middle East
Libya attacks US ban decision
12 Jul 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
On the trail of Colonel Gaddafi
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