Image: Moammar Gadhafi in 1996
Enric Marti  /  AP
Moammar Gadhafi addresses supporters in 1996. Dr. Liacyr Ribeiro says the Libyan leader "looked like a 45-year-old man" after he carried out a secretive four-hour procedure on him in January 1995. Gadhafi was aged 53 at the time of the surgery.
By
updated 3/25/2011 7:02:41 AM ET 2011-03-25T11:02:41

It was well past midnight when the Brazilian surgeon says he was escorted deep inside a bunker in the Libyan capital.

His assignment: to shave years off Moammar Gadhafi's appearance by removing fat from his belly and injecting it into his wrinkled face. The Libyan leader also got hair plugs.

"He told me that he had been in power for 25 years at that time, and that he did not want the young people of his nation to see him as an old man," Dr. Liacyr Ribeiro recalled. "I recommended a facelift, but he refused."

Hamburger break
The secretive four-hour procedure in 1995 was done, at Gadhafi's insistence, with local anesthesia because he wanted to remain alert. Midway through, the Libyan leader stopped to have a hamburger.

Gadhafi was worried a facelift would be too noticeable, so he opted for the less radical procedure, the plastic surgeon told The Associated Press.

Slideshow: Moammar Gadhafi through the years (on this page)

"I warned Gadhafi that the effects of the operation I performed would last for about five years, that it had an expiration date after which the skin would sag and the wrinkles would reappear," Ribeiro said.

"He said he would call me if he needed me to come back," and about five years ago there was such a request, but Ribeiro had a family obligation. "They never called me again," he said.

At the time of the surgery, Gadhafi was 53, but Ribeiro said he looked at least 10 years older. A photo taken at the time shows the smiling doctor posing next to the Libyan leader, who wore a white suit, floral shirt and had pronounced wrinkles crisscrossing his face and neck.

After the procedure, "he looked like a 45-year-old man," the doctor said.

Ribeiro insists he is speaking out now only to provide insight into a man about whom little is known, and certainly not to boast.

"Gadhafi is not looking very good these days," said Ribeiro, noting that the 68-year-old leader has appeared jowly in recent appearances, his skin puffy, loose and deeply creased. "To let potential patients know that I operated on him would be counterproductive."

Gadhafi is hardly the only world leader to go under the knife.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi owes his look to plastic surgery and a hair transplant — work also performed by Ribeiro, according to media reports, though the doctor refuses to confirm that. And rumors swirled about Russian leader Vladimir Putin after he appeared last October with heavy makeup covering bruises under his eyes.

Image: Moammar Gadhafi and Dr. Liacyr Ribeiro in 1994
AP
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, left, met Dr. Liacyr Ribeiro in Tripoli in 1994. Gadhafi was worried a facelift would be too noticeable, so he opted for the less radical procedure, Ribeiro says.

A surgeon with an international reputation, the 70-year-old Ribeiro has written two books on plastic surgery and taken part in conferences around the world on the topic.

It was at one such gathering, in May 1994 in Tripoli, that Ribeiro spoke about his specialty, cosmetic breast surgery.

Armed guards
Afterward, a Libyan official identified as Mohamed Zaid "came up to me and said he wanted me to meet someone who Libyans love very much," Ribeiro said. "Because of my specialty, I thought he was going to introduce me to his wife."

Instead, Zaid drove Ribeiro to a house surrounded by armed guards.

"Zaid and I were taken to a library located underneath a tent set up inside the house, and there he told me that he wanted me to examine Gadhafi," Ribeiro said.

A few minutes later, the Libyan leader, wearing a long white tunic, entered the room, "shook my hand and greeted me, speaking perfect English."

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"He was an extremely polite, intelligent, cordial and soft-spoken person who quickly told me what he wanted and why," Ribeiro said.

Gadhafi wanted an immediate operation, but Ribeiro needed a surgical team and the procedure was scheduled for January 1995.

Envelope 'full of U.S. dollars'
It began at 2 a.m. in Gadhafi's bunker, which "had two fully equipped and very modern operating rooms, a gym and a swimming pool," Ribeiro said.

"He insisted on local anesthesia saying he wanted to remain alert," the doctor added. "He was a very calm patient."

Sao Paulo-based plastic surgeon Dr. Fabio Naccache confirmed to the AP that he was part of the team and performed a hair transplant on the Libyan leader.

About halfway through, Gadhafi said he was hungry.

"Hamburgers were brought in for all and surgery was interrupted for several minutes while we ate," the surgeon said.

Afterward, Zaid handed Ribeiro an envelope "full of U.S. dollars and Swiss francs." He would not say how much money it contained.

"All I can say is that it was more than I would charge for my services in Brazil," he said.

The doctor stayed in Tripoli for 10 days while Gadhafi recovered.

Ribeiro said he assumes Gadhafi turned to him because Libyan surgeons were either "incapable of doing what I did or too scared that he would die on the operating table."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Tattered flag marks divided Libyan city

  1. Closed captioning of: Tattered flag marks divided Libyan city

    >>> good evening. i'm lester holt in tonight for brian williams . for a seventh straight day the u.s. and the allies bombarded targets in libya, still trying to break the back of moammar gadhafi 's assault on rebel-held cities. the u.s. for its part says it's prepared to take a back seat, but exactly what the ultimate goal is and even who's in charge of this operation are still somewhat ill defined tonight. nato says it plans to take full command, but is still seeking consensus on a military strategy. in a moment we'll hear from the general in charge of u.s. forces there, but first to the ground where rebels are taking their own fight to gadhafi 's forces. today nbc's richard engel joined them at the front lines and comes to us now from benghazi. richard , good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, lester . today we were actually able to go south and moving through the desert to go behind the rebels ' front line and enter the city of of ajdabiya and see fighting inside the city itself. through the desert behind the rebels ' front line , we follow a secret convoy to bring water and fuel to the people of ajdabiya , a rebel city still partially held by gadhafi 's forces. we reach ajdabiya 's eastern gate . it's controlled by rebels , and marked by a tattered flag. ajdabiya is mostly deserted, an urban war zone . shops are closed or destroyed. there's no power or running water . just fighting between the revolutionaries and gadhafi 's men, says this man. through a broken gate we enter his home. it was badly damaged by gadhafi 's troops. this is shrapnel, he says, from the tank round that hit his house and went right in this room. and the fighting isn't over. outside we hear gunfire. gadhafi 's troops are just a few blocks away. we see rebels running, advancing. firing behind a wall. there is street-to- street fighting here in ajdabiya . we're taking cover behind a bus, as the rebels are trying to push out gadhafi forces that still hold large pockets of this city. the rebels reload in the middle of the street. it's hard to know where the bullets are coming from. open intersections are especially exposed. so we run through them. they say there are snipers on the road, so you have to go from cover to cover . the rebels advance, they reload, they hide behind whatever wall they can find, and then they push forward . the rebels remain poorly armed, but highly motivated. our goal is to free this city and all of libya from tyranny, said one fighter. as we leave ajdabiya , we see hundreds more rebels pouring in. they're confident because now they're getting help from above. this gun camera shows a british warplane launching devastating attacks on gadhafi 's tanks near ajdabiya . with air power and reinforcements, the rebels hope to capture ajdabiya within days. ajdabiya is significant, lester , because if the rebels can take it, it will be the first real sign of progress by the rebels since the western air campaign began.

    >> richard , we've heard these rebels described as rag-tag armies. are they beginning to operate as units? are they getting better weapons?

    >> reporter: the learning curve is very high. today we saw the rebels actually using some tactics. they have started to camouflage their vehicles using sand and mud so they're not as exposed. they are, according to the rebels , getting some new weapons and we even saw some multiple rocket launchers on the edge of the city for the first time. so, yes, they are learning, lester .

    >> richard engel in benghazi for us, tonight, richard , at that thank you.

Photos: Moammar Gadhafi

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  1. Col. Moammar Gadhafi is seen in Tripoli on Sept. 27, 1969, after leading a military coup that toppled King Idris. Gadhafi has maintained his rule over Libya for more than four decades since the coup. Gadhafi was killed in Sirte on Oct. 20 as revolutionary forces took the last bastion of his supporters. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Gadhafi, left, and Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser, right, arrive in Rabat, Morocco, in December 1969 for the Arab Summit Conference. (Benghabit / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Col. Gadhafi, left, jokes with a group of British hippies in Tripoli in July 1973. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gadhafi was purportedly a major financier of the Black September movement, a band of Palestinian militants. Its members perpetrated the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. One of the Black September guerrillas who broke into the Olympic Village is seen in this picture. (Keystone via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Gadhafi during the summit of the Organization of African Unity on Aug. 4, 1975, in Kampala, Uganda. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Flowers are laid at the memorial to Yvonne Fletcher, a British police constable who was shot dead by terrorists in April 1984 while on duty during a protest outside the Libyan embassy in London. Fletcher's death led to an 11-day police siege of the embassy and a breakdown of diplomatic relations between Libya and the United Kingdom. (Fox Photos via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Gadhafi and his second wife Safiya wave to the crowd upon their arrival in Dakar, Senegal, for a three-day official visit on Dec. 3, 1985. Gadhafi has eight biological children, six by Safiya. (Joel Robine / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. U.S. Ambassador to West Germany Richard Burt, fourth from left, and West Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen, fifth from left, inspect the damage following an April 5, 1986, bombing at a Berlin discotheque frequented by American serveicemen. Libya was blamed for the blast, which killed three and injured more than 200. Then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan retaliated by ordering airstrikes against the Libyan capital of Tripoli and city of Benghazi. (Wolfgang Mrotzkowski / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. French policemen and army soldiers unload crates of arms and ammunition seized aboard the Panamian merchant ship Eksund on Nov. 3, 1987 at Brest military port in France. A huge supply of arms and explosives purportedly supplied by Libya and destined for the Irish Republican Army was found aboard the vessel. (Andre Durand / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. This Dec. 22, 1988, photo shows the wreckage of the Pan Am airliner that exploded and crashed over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people - most of them Americans. Gadhafi has accepted Libya's responsibility for the bombing and paid compensation to the victims' families. Libya's ex-justice minister was recently quoted as telling a Swedish newspaper that Gadhafi personally ordered the bombing. (Letkey / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, right, welcomes Gadhafi upon his arrival at Tunis airport on Jan. 10, 1990. (Frederic Neema / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi is escorted by security officers in Tripoli on Feb. 18, 1992. Al-Megrahi was granted a compassionate release from a Scottish prison in August 2009 on the grounds that he was suffering from prostate cancer and would die soon. (Manoocher Deghati / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, left, accompanies Gadhafi on a tour at the pyramids of Giza on Jan. 19, 1993. (Aladin Abdel Naby / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An Egyptian border policeman counts passports belonging to Palestinians waiting at the post in Salloum for transit to the Gaza Strip on Sept. 12, 1995. Families were stranded at the border with Libya after Gadhafi decided to expel 30.000 Palestinians, reportedly in order to call attention to the political situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. (Amr Nabil / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Libyan women bodyguards provide security for VIPs during a military parade in Green Square on Sept. 1, 2003, to mark the 34th anniversary of Gadhafi's acension to power. (Mike Nelson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Family members of people killed in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, read documents on Sept. 12, 2003, as the U.N. Security Council votes to lift sanctions against Libya for the 1988 bombing. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, left, flew to Libya in 2004 to hold talks with Gadhafi inside a Bedouin tent. Here, Blair and and Gadhafi stroll to a separate tent in Tripoli for lunch during a break in their talks. Blair's role was particularly vital in Gadhafi's international rehabilitation. He praised the leader for ending Libya's nuclear and chemical weapons program and stressed the need for new security alliances in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. (Stefan Rousseau / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. U.S. President George W. Bush looks at material and equipment surrendered by Libya, during a tour of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee on July 12, 2004. Bush officially lifted the U.S. trade embargo against Libya on Sept. 20, 2004. (Tim Sloan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. View of the remains of Gadhafi's bombed-out headquarters, now turned into a living memento, inside his compound in Tripoli on Oct. 15, 2004. The sculpture in the center represents a golden fist grabbing a U.S. jet fighter. U.S. jets bombed Tripoli, killing Gadhafi's adopted 4-year-old daughter, in April 1986 in retaliation for the Berlin discotheque bombing. (John Macdougall / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is welcomed by Gadhafi in Tripoli on July 25, 2007. Sarkozy arrived for a meeting with the Libyan leader a day after the release of six foreign medics from a Libyan prison. (Patrick Kovarik / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Gadhafi's son Saif, center, attends a ceremony in the southern Libyan city of Ghiryan on Aug. 18, 2007, to mark the arrival of water from the Great Manmade River, a project to pipe water from desert wells to coastal communities. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Gadhafi looks at a Russian-language edition of his book "The Green Book" during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 17, 2008, in Tripoli. Putin was in Libya for a two-day visit to rebuild Russian-Libyan relations. (Artyom Korotayev / Epsilon via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Gadhafi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi pose for a picture after signing an agreement in the eastern city of Benghazi on Libya's Mediterranean coast on Aug. 30, 2008. Berlusconi apologized to Libya for damage inflicted by Italy during the colonial era and signed a $5 billion investment deal by way of compensation. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Gadhafi poses with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prior to a meeting in Tripoli on Sept. 5, 2008. Rice arrived in Libya on the first such visit in more than half a century, marking a new chapter in Washington's reconciliation with the former enemy state. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Gadhafi attends the closing session of the Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar, on March 30, 2009. (Marwan Naamani / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Gadhafi waves after delivering a speech during a meeting with 700 women from the business, political and cultural spheres on June 12, 2009, in Rome. The Libyan strongman drew cheers and jeers when he criticized Islam's treatment of women but then suggested it should be up to male relatives to decide if a woman can drive. (Christophe Simon / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. U.S .President Barack Obama shakes hands with Gadhafi during the G-8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, on July 9, 2009. (Michael Gottschalk / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was found guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, top left, is accompanied by Seif al-Islam el-Gadhafi, son of the Libyan leader, upon his arrival at the airport in Tripoli on Aug. 20, 2009. Scotland freed the terminally ill Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds, allowing him to die at home in Libya despite American protests that he should be shown no mercy. (Amr Nabil / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. The president of the U.N. General Assembly, Ali Abdussalam Treki, top center, listens in apparent misery as Gadhafi speaks on Sept. 23, 2009, at U.N. headquarters in New York. It was Gadhafi's first appearance before the U.N., and he emptied out much of the chamber with an exhaustive 95-minute speech in which he criticized the decision-making structure of the world body and called for investigations of all the wars and assassinations that have taken place since the U.N.'s founding. (Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Gadhafi greets Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during the plenary session at the Africa-South America Summit on Margarita Island on Sept. 27, 2009. Chavez and Gadhafi urged African and South American leaders to strive for a new world order countering Western economic dominance. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Gadhafi and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a group picture of Arab and African leaders ahead of the opening of the second Arab-African summit in the coastal town of Sirte, Libya, on Oct. 10, 2010. Ben Ali and Mubarak were driven out of power by popular revolts in 2011. (Sabri Elmehedwi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Gadhafi is followed by members of the press in Tripoli before making a speech hoping to defuse tensions on March 2. Gadhafi blamed al-Qaida for creating turmoil and told applauding supporters there was a conspiracy to control Libya and its oil. (Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Libyan rebels step on a picture of Gadhafi at a checkpoint in Tripoli's Qarqarsh district on Aug. 22. Libyan government tanks and snipers put up a scattered, last-ditch effort in Tripoli on Monday after rebels swept into the heart of the capital, cheered on by crowds hailing the end of Gadhafi's 42 years in power. (Bob Strong / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. A man in Tripoli holds a photo said to be of Moammar Gadhafi after the announcement of the former leader's death, Oct. 20, 2011. Gadhafi was killed when revolutionary forces overwhelmed his hometown, Sirte, the last major bastion of resistance two months after the regime fell. (Abdel Magid Al-fergany / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: TO GO WITH AFP PACKAGE ON THE 40TH ANNIV
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    Above: Slideshow (34) Moammar Gadhafi through the years
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