Image Credit: Reuters

Sirte, Libya: Maverick Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, known for rambling diatribes and sharp jabs at fellow leaders, gave a short opening speech Saturday at the Arab summit but remained true to form by suggesting one of his chief guests was overweight.

Gaddafi spoke for less than 15 minutes and then gave the floor to three foreign guests, including United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

"The Arab masses and people are fed up with words," Gaddafi said in his speech, hosting his first summit in Sirte, his hometown. "They are waiting for action, not words and speeches."

He described Arab citizens as "revolutionaries who are always on the defensive", and advised his fellow leaders "to take decisions that match the expectations" of their people.

However, when the Qatari leader Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani suggested that Arab leaders had achieved too little, Gaddafi said he didn't think his guest would do much better.

Then, taking a jab at the girth of his tall and heavy guest, he said Shaikh Hamad was "better than me at filling a void", before bursting out laughing.

In September, Gaddafi defied orders at the UN General Assembly to speak for 15 minutes, and went on for more than 90 minutes.

Gaddafi, one of the longest serving Arab leaders, has a reputation for not mincing words and of riling Western and Arabic leaders alike. Thirteen heads of state answered his invitation to attend the summit.

Among those absent are regional powerbroker King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, who was insulted by Gaddafi at last year's summit in Qatar.

"It has been six years since you have been avoiding a confrontation with me," Gaddafi snapped at King Abdullah at last year's summit.

"I am the leader of the Arab leaders, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of the Muslims."

At an Arab summit in 1988 he wore a white glove on his right hand to avoid shaking "bloodstained hands".

At the 2005 Arab summit in Algiers he upstaged the final session with an unscheduled address in which he described Israel and the Palestinians as "idiots", leaving his audience in fits of laughter.

How can leaders be made accountable for the statements they make? How much damage do such incidents do to the future of cooperation in the region?