THE most striking photograph of the many taken at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday was of Colonel Gaddafi of Libya pausing to take a sip of water during his 100 minute speech while in the background the Libyan president of the Assembly, Dr Ali Abdussalam Treki, is holding his hand over his face, deep in thought about how he can stop the uncontrolled torrent of words coming from his country's leader. Some years ago the UN decided that fifteen minutes was long enough for any principal speaker to make all the points he or she wants to get across. Few keep to that limit but even fewer ignore it to the extent that Col Gaddafi did on Wednesday, although he got nowhere near Fidel Castro's four hours and twenty-nine minutes in 1960. The absolute UN record is held by India's UN Ambassador, Krishna Menon, who spent nine hours non-stop defending his country's policy on Kashmir to the Security Council in 1957. Old UN hands later recalled how they left for lunch in shifts and then for dinner also while Menon kept talking.

Amidst the insults and accusations that peppered Gaddafi's speech there were some serious points that deserve consideration and response. President Sarkozy of France made a brisk and punchy speech that also warrants further discussion; unlike most General Assembly speakers he avoided generalisations and dealt in specifics about the urgent need for change in the UN and other international bodies.