Ilyumzhinov-Gaddafi encounter: international media reactions

6/16/2011 – News and TV channels picked it up with glee: while NATO aircraft were (probably) targeting Muammar Gaddafi directly, the Libyan dictator sat down with the "eccentric" President of the World Chess Federation for a friendly game. Not really a positive picture, and harsh criticism has rained on Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. He sees his visit as a mission of peace and has appealed to people not to politicize the issue.

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Fox News: Qaddafi Plays Chess, Claims 'No Intention' of Leaving

BBC: Gaddafi enjoys a game of chess


Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has claimed in a conversation with president of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) Kirsan Ilyumzhinov that he was ready to proceed in talks with NATO and rebels, but ruled out the possibility of his resignation. Russian eccentric billionaire Ilyumzhinov, who once claimed he hosted extraterrestrials, showed up in Tripoli and sat down for a game of chess with Gaddafi on Sunday.

"I am ready for immediate talks with the NATO leadership and Benghazi representatives on the future of our country," Ilyumzhinov quoted Gaddafi as saying. The strongman has laid down one condition for such talks – cessation of air strikes. However Gaddafi stated that he is not planning to leave Libya, stressing that it is his motherland and the land where his children and grandchildren died, the FIDE president added.

Gaddafi said he left his residence in Bab al-Azizia a few minutes before a NATO bomb hit it. But his son Saif al-Arab and three of Gaddafi’s grandchildren who remained inside the compound were killed. “This house was in fact destroyed in front of his very eyes.” Gaddafi also said that he does not understand which post he needs to step down from. "I am neither premier nor president nor king. I do not hold any post in Libya and therefore I have no position which I should give up."

The Kremlin said it was aware of the details of Ilyumzhinov's visit to Tripoli.

Other reports

Wall Street Journal
Mr. Ilyumzhinov’s trip to Tripoli “was a meeting of two crazy people,” said Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion who has been trying to unseat Mr. Ilyumzhinov from the chess federation, charging that he is giving the game a bad name. “One is on his way down and the other is on his way to alien worlds.” Mr. Kasparov noted that Mr. Ilyumzhinov’s visit may signal the Libyan leader’s dimming prospects — Mr. Ilyumzhinov visited Saddam Hussein in 2003, shortly before the U.S. invasion toppled his government. His ties to Mr. Gadhafi’s government are long-standing, and in 2004 Libya hosted the federation’s world championships, making it impossible for Israeli players to compete, Mr. Kasparov said.

New Yorker: Chess with Qaddafi (and Aliens)
Michael Specter: "The last time I spoke with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the autocratic Buddhist millionaire who, for nearly two decades, ran the Russian republic of Kalmykia and, perhaps more important, still rules FIDE, the governing body of the international chess world, he told me how close he felt to Saddam Hussein. (He did acknowledge that the relationship was complicated: “I’m a Buddhist. When there’s torture going on and blood flowing, I don’t like it.”) When it comes to friendship, Ilyumzhinov casts a pretty wide net. So it was not surprising to see him photographed yesterday at a chess board with the world’s current most-wanted despot: Muammar Qaddafi."

New York Times: Qaddafi’s Latest Gambit, a Chess Match
If not exactly a chess match for the ages, it was at least a deliciously emblematic contest that caught something of the curious, and often deeply eccentric, world of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, a man who has been known to want to pitch a tent for his comfort in Manhattan’s Central Park, along with a host of other behaviors unusual in a national leader. Captured on Libyan state television, the match was played on Sunday in Tripoli between Colonel Qaddafi and the president of the World Chess Federation, a Russian politician and one-time goat-and-sheep-herder by the name of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

Time: Russian Space Oddity: Ground Control to Colonel Gaddafi
When the U.S. and France asked Russia last month to help mediate the war in Libya, they were probably not expecting a self-proclaimed emissary of alien life to show up in Tripoli for a meeting with Muammar Gaddafi. But on Sunday evening, as NATO air strikes continued on the Libyan capital, the besieged Colonel took the time to entertain a Russian politician named Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, best known for his claims that extraterrestrials took him on a mystical tour of the galaxy in their spaceship in 1997. Far from convincing Gaddafi to step down, the visit seemed geared toward giving him a confidence boost – and an unlikely lesson in the game of kings.

FIDE's reaction

Members of the FIDE presidential board were not enchanted by the attention their President was getting in the world press, but they stressed to us that it was in his nature to try any solve international crises through direct talks and through chess. Ilyumzhinov himself released the following letter, accusing his detractors of wrongfully politicizing his visit to Libya and asking that people show solidarity for his peace efforts.

Text:

I was asked to visit Libya this past weekend, and I am very satisfied that I saw that chess could play such a critical role in promoting peace at this time of crisis.

I had very serious meetings regarding the objectives I had set, and I am proud that FIDE could contribute to the peace process in the region and the world.

It is therefore unfortunate that some people are trying to use this trip to wrongfully politicize the situation in FIDE and I am asking everybody to show complete solidarity for the peace efforts in Libya.

GENS UNA SUMUS - WE ARE ONE FAMILY
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
FIDE President

The FIDE President has undertaken similar peace initiatives in the past. In August last year he went on a working visit to Ramallah, Palestine, where he met with the leadership of this country, as well as with the Chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Palestine Dzhabrail Rajoub to discuss the development of chess in Palestine.

Ilyumzhinov met with the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Chairman of Fatah movement Mahmoud Abbas, who is a big fan of the game and interested in the introduction of chess into the school curriculum. The FIDE President proposed to the Palestinian leader to hold a chess match between the Palestinian and Israeli children on a hundred boards. This match was designed to be a symbol for solving problems with the help of sports and at the peace table. ”In this case, a chess table can become a table of peace and friendship,” said Ilyumzhinov. Mahmoud Abbas endorsed this proposal and suggested to hold the match in the place of the separation wall.

The peripatetic President is on the road for most of the year, usually, he tells us, on an endeavor to popularise chess, to make it part of the culture of youth and to drastically increase the number of people on the planet that play the game. The FIDE office in Elsta sent us the following itinerary of the President's trips in the past eight months:

2010
Bilbao, Spain Grand Slam Chess Masters Final 14 October
Plovdiv, Bulgaria European Club Cup 16 October
Dubai, UAE Meeting 18-20 October
Guangzhou, China 16th Asian Games 12. November
Moscow, Russia World Blitz Championship  
UNESCO Meeting 20. November
Paris, France Meeting 19-20 November
Lausanne Meeting 21-22 November
Vietnam  Working trip 28 November
Cambodia Working trip 29 November
Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur    Working trip 01 December
Kazan, Russia Working trip 17 December
Bangkok, Thailand V-Star event 10-11 December
Tel-Aviv, Israel Working trip 18-19 December
Antakya, Turkey Closing Ceremoyy of WWCC 25 December
2011
Antalya, Turkey Presidential Board Meeting 4-5 February
Moscow, Russia Meeting 13 February
Bangkok, Thailand Working trip 18 February
Doha, Qatar Women's GP / 6th stage 20 February
Moscow, Russia Meeting 11 March
Hungary, Budapest Working trip 01 March
Order Order 21 March
Astana, Kazakhstan Working trip 19-20 March
Dushanbe, Tajikistan Working trip 21-22 March
Moscow, Russia Order 24 March
Tashkent, Uzbekistan Working trip 29 March
London, England Visit 01 April
Thailand Award 19 April
Thailand World Meditation Academy 26 April
Krakow, Poland World Individual School Championship    30 April
Kazan, Russia Chess Academy 05 May
Kazan, Russia Candidates Matches 05 May
Tbilisi, Georgia Euro Women's  Ind. Championship 06 May
Mashad, Iran Working trip 11 May
Colombo, Sri Lanka Working trip 18 May
Kiev, Ukraine Working trip 22 May
Moscow, Russia Meeting 24 May

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