Even politics pauses to break the fast

Iftar food, drink and good cheer follow Hamas leader's talk in Damascus.

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DAMASCUS // For a man who had had nothing to eat or drink all day, Khalid Meshaal delivered an impressively fiery speech, a finger characteristically jabbing the air as he denounced the latest in a long line of peace summits. But food and water were clearly on his mind, not just geopolitics and the intractable Arab-Israeli conflict. As he talked on Tuesday, the clock ticked closer to iftar, when he and his invited audience could break their Ramadan fast.

The speech ebbed at one point, but a glance at his watch made it clear there was another 20 minutes left to fill, and he threw himself back into the oration. Later, another look at the watch and all the talking was quickly wrapped up. Escorted by a posse of smartly dressed, burly bodyguards, the Hamas leader, visibly in good cheer, joined a small tidal wave of journalists and party cadres as they amicably shoved their way towards the food tables.

With everyone seated, there were an agonising few minutes until another of the Hamas officials said it was OK to start. Mr Meshaal gave the nod and the eating began, his own smile in stark contrast to the stone-cold looks on the bearded faces of his security detail - perhaps because they were still on duty and unable to do more than grab the occasional piece of kibbeh while everyone else feasted. After the food came prayers, then more talking. But the Hamas leader seemed distinctly more relaxed. Waving for a glass of water, he picked up where he had left off, decrying what he said he was latest US-Israeli plot to destroy his people.