Friday, May 04, 2007

Another Opportunity Come and Gone?

Everyone has not doubt read many of the headlines today about the Iraq conference, such as here and here. The conference is more memorable for what did not happen than what did. On the what did happen side, press seized the story of Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki storming out of the Diplomats dinner last night, allegedly because the female violinist was dressed too revealingly. The US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack seized the opportunity to say, "I don't know which woman he was afraid of, the woman in the red dress or the secretary of state," across from whom he was directly seated. Mottaki of course claimed that there were problems with "Islamic standards" at the dinner and that was the only reason he left.

Apparently, however, Condi wasn't rude, as President Bush promised she would not be, when she exchanged pleasantries with Mottaki over lunch.

Neither the US nor the Iranians made a first move at the meeting to set up a real meeting where direct talks between the two countries to begin. When pressed why, Condi responded: "You can ask him why he didn't make an effort. I'm not given to chasing anyone."

According to the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari , there were talks between the Iranian and American ambassadors to Iraq today on the sidelines of the conference, which is the second such meeting since March 10, 2007.

Iranian journalist and social activist Omid Memarian has a slightly different take on the conference. In his piece today for IPS news, he says that the mere fact that the Iranians were willing to participate in the conference boosts the chances for eventual negotiations between Tehran and Washington. According to Memarian, "Even if direct talks do not occur this round, indications are that both sides are seeking a way out of the impasse while saving face."

Meanwhile, Mottaki gave his speech on Friday, assailing US policy 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. The United States must accept the responsibilities arising from the occupation of Iraq." Mottaki also demanded the release of five Iranian diplomats captured in Irbil, Iraq in January.

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