Tea, yawns as Gaddafi pushes AU summit through night

Wed Feb 4, 2009 8:58am EST
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By Daniel Wallis

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Aided by a steaming pot of tea, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi addressed tiring and watch-tapping African leaders into the early hours of Wednesday as their annual meeting in Ethiopia dragged into extra time.

While none of their words could be heard, a small security lapse gave some prying reporters a fascinating look at the body language of Robert Mugabe, Yoweri Museveni and dozens of others as they debated through the night.

Journalists are usually kept well away from the heads of state, except for the occasional carefully managed news conference, or a brief word thrown to the hack pack as they sweep past in a phalanx of sharp-elbowed, scowling bodyguards.

But as the talks dragged well past midnight, long after the summit was scheduled to end, a diplomat approached a couple of reporters: "Want to see something interesting?"

Down a staircase and through a gap that curtains were meant to cover, the reporters had a perfect view of new AU chairman Gaddafi holding forth to dozens of fellow leaders.

With the Libyan appearing unusually animated, his counterparts became visibly more and more tired.

Zimbabwe's Mugabe, sitting just a few feet from the window, looked especially dejected, often holding his head in his hands.

Uganda's Museveni stared stonily ahead.   Continued...

<p>Libyan leader and the new chairman of the African Union, Muammar Gaddafi, listens in during the opening session of the 12th African Union Summit in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, February 2, 2009. REUTERS/Antony Njuguna</p>