Iranian Walks Out Of Dinner With Condi

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attends the Expanded Ministerial Conference for the Neighbors of Iraq on the second day session of the Iraq conference at the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt Friday, May 4, 2007. AP

Iran's foreign minister walked out of a dinner of diplomats where he was seated directly across from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on the pretext that the 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.

Later Friday, Iraq's foreign minister said United States and Iranian officials had met at ambassadorial level. Neither Rice nor Mottaki were in the meeting.

The dinner episode Thursday night amid a major regional conference on Iraq perfectly revealed how hard it was to bring together the top diplomats of the two rival nations.

Meanwhile, Iraq's neighbors on Friday negotiated a declaration that would pledge support for Iraq's embattled Shiite-led government in return for more inclusion of Sunni Arabs in the political process.

A draft copy of the six-page declaration said the summit participants would agree to support Iraq's government as long as it ensured the "basic right of all Iraqi citizens to participate peacefully in the political process through the country's political system."

In other developments:

  • Presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., announced they would introduce legislation requiring President Bush to seek a reauthorization from Congress to extend the military effort in Iraq.

  • U.S.-led forces raided Baghdad's main Shiite district on Friday and detained 16 alleged militants on suspicion of smuggling a powerful weapon from Iran into Iraq that can pierce armored vehicles, the military said. The military also announced the discovery in recent months of several weapons caches south of Baghdad that included four of the Iranian-made weapons, known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFP.

  • A U.S. soldier was killed and two were wounded when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad, the military said. In western Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed five Iraqi policemen on patrol and wounded two others, police said.

  • The U.S. military on Friday identified two more top al Qaeda aides killed during an operation earlier this week targeting a senior propagandist for the terror network. The announcement came a day after the military said U.S.-led forces killed al Qaeda propagandist Muharib Abdul-Latif al-Jubouri early Tuesday west of Taji, near an air base 12 miles north of Baghdad.

    Also Friday at the conference, Mottaki delivered a tough speech, blaming the U.S. military presence for Iraq's turmoil and demanding the release of five Iranians detained by U.S. forces in Iraq.

    "There should be no doubt that the continuation of and increase in terrorist acts in Iraq originates from the flawed approaches adopted by the foreign troops," Mottaki said. "The United States must accept the responsibilities arising from the occupation of Iraq."

    On the conference's other main front, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Friday pushed Arab governments to stop foreign fighters from crossing their territory to join Iraq's insurgency, while trying to convince the Arabs that his Shiite-led government was serious about reconciling with Iraq's Sunnis.

    Going into the summit, the Iraqi government had hoped for a breakthrough meeting between Rice and Mottaki. Instead, their only direct contact was a wary exchange of pleasantries over lunch Thursday, punctuated by a wry, somewhat mysterious comment by Mottaki.

    Mottaki walked out of the diplomats' dinner on the pretext that the female violinist entertaining the gathering was dressed too revealingly.

    The Iranian entered the lunch, greeting the gathered diplomats with the Arabic phrase, "As-salama aleikum," or "Peace be upon you," according to an Iraqi official who was present.
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      Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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