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BorderWatch:Iran
Iran Factor
US, Iran Ambassadors Meet in Cairo
Mottaki Walks Out on a Chance to Sit Across From Rice at Dinner
05/04/2007 10:47 AM ET
Sharm El-Sheikh, EGYPT: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attends the second day of an international conference on Iraq, 04 May 2007 in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Khaled Desouki
Sharm El-Sheikh, EGYPT: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attends the second day of an international conference on Iraq, 04 May 2007 in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Iranian and US ambassadors had a conversation on the sidelines of the international conference in Cairo, according Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

Zebari told a press conference Friday that "there was no direct meeting, but they were in the same room and they were discussing the issues."

"I don't know what happened during this meeting but I believe it was positive and indications are positive," he added.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, played down the significance of the meeting, saying he spent only three minutes with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.

"The exchange, such as it was, was limited and was on Iraq... It was a pass-by meeting," he told Reuters, using the term for a brief informal encounter. The State Department's Iraq coordinator, David Satterfield, was also present.

Zebari welcomed the U.S.-Iran encounter, even if the conference did not achieve the anticipated face-to-face between Secretary of State Rice and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. "I think it was a positive sign that at least such a thing did take place while we are here. This is a process I think. It needs more work," he told a news conference.

"There is a lot of suspicion. There is a lot of mistrust. But it is in my country's interest really to see a reduction of this tension," he added.

Rice said that if she had had the chance she would also have met Mottaki.

"The opportunity simply didn't arise for the foreign minister of Iran and me to meet... I would have taken that opportunity," she told a news conference.

"But our officials did ... have an opportunity to exchange views about the substance of this meeting, which is how to help Iraq be more secure," she added.

A diplomats' dinner Thursday night is causing a slight controversy because Mottaki walked out, ostensibly because a female violinist entertaining the gathering was dressed too revealingly.

"I don't know which woman he was afraid of, the woman in the red dress or the secretary of state," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday, regarding the actions of Iran's Manouchehr Mottaki on Thursday night.

AP writes that Mottaki "was seated directly across" from Rice, but Reuters reports that he walked out before the Secretary of State arrived--a minor difference, but significant in the possible indication of any intended slight by the Iranian foreign minister.

Whether or not Mottaki's behavior at dinner Thursday night was designed to offend, his speech to the conference vividly demonstrates that the Iranian delegation had not travelled to Cairo to make friends with the Americans.

Mottaki told the assembly, "The United States must accept the responsibility arising from the occupation of Iraq and should not fingerpoint or put the blame on others," adding, "The continuation of and increase in terrorist acts in Iraq originates from the flawed approaches adopted by the foreign troops."

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