It was an aside in a longer note from the U.S. ambassador in Libya back to Washington about Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's trip to New York for a U.N. General Assembly: the aging North African ruler always has his voluptuous Ukrainian nurse at his side.
Now that, along with other small but embarrassing details about what Washington and its diplomats really think of Qaddafi, may have led the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, a veteran American diplomat, to lose his post, reports McClatchy newspapers.
Cretz has been recalled to Washington and may not return, according to McClatchy's report.
Libyan-American relations have been difficult for decades, finally opening up a bit in 2003 when Libya gave up its nuclear program. Previously, Libya had been accused, and in some cases admitted to, sponsoring international terrorism.
After Qaddafi, the Libyan ruler since his successful 1969 military coup, began acceding to Western demands, American diplomacy was ramped up there.
Now, however, the notoriously prickly and eccentric Qaddafi may have takento heart, McClatchy reports
"It's a complicated relationship, and WikiLeaks just added to that complication," said an official, who requested anonymity because no announcement has been made on Cretz's status, told McClatchy.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that Cretz had returned to Washington for consultations. "One of the issues to be discussed will be, you know, when he goes back," Crowley said.
When WikiLeaks first released a small fraction of the reported 250,000 diplomatic cables it possesses, many in Washington complained it will ruin America's ability to engage in diplomacy successfully.
Although several anecdotes about sudden, new difficulties for American diplomats have surfaced since the release, the recall of Cretz may be the first real-world sign that WikiLeaks has harmed American diplomacy.
McClatchy reports that Cretz, who in November 2008 became the first U.S. ambassador to Libya since 1972, wrote in a leaked September 2009 cable, entitled "A Glimpse Into Libyan Leader Gadhafi's Eccentricities," that "Gadhafi relies heavily on his longtime Ukrainian nurse, Galyna . . . who has been described as a 'voluptuous blonde.'"
"He also appears to have an intense dislike or fear of staying on upper floors, reportedly prefers not to fly over water, and seems to enjoy horse racing and flamenco dancing," reported the cable, written as the Libyan leader prepared to travel to New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly.
Gadhafi "has been described as both mercurial and eccentric, and our recent firsthand experiences with him and his office, primarily in preparation for his UNGA trip, demonstrated the truth of both characterizations," Cretz wrote.
Another cable, written three months earlier, reported that rumors of Gadhafi's suffering from cancer were "unreliable," but that the leader had hypertension and was a borderline diabetic.
"Gadhafi was described as 'a hypochondriac,' who insisted that all examinations and procedures be filmed and then spent hours reviewing them with physicians whom he trusted," the ambassador reported.