The Waiting Game: Is the Third Time a Charm?
By Glenn Kessler
THE HAGUE, March 30 -- What's going to happen when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a senior diplomat from the Islamic Republic of Iran find themselves in the same room?
Perhaps nothing. But anticipation is running high after Iran decided to accept an invitation to attend a conference on Afghanistan. It is the first opportunity for a high-level diplomatic encounter between Iran and the new administration. President Obama has indicated he is very interested in improving relations with Tehran.
The Bush administration had little interest in warmer ties and even appeared to have an unspoken policy of regime change. But even so, both of Clinton's predecessors, Colin L. Powell and Condoleezza Rice, at one point found themselves in the same room with their Iranian counterparts during international conferences.
Powell, in November 2004, was seated next to the then-Iranian foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, during dinner at a conference on Iran at Sharm el-Sheikh, a maneuver engineered by mischievous Egyptian hosts. Powell by then was a lame duck secretary of state, and not much happened. The two shook hands and exchanged polite dinner conversation, comparing notes on grandchildren and the like.
Things didn't go quite as swimmingly for Rice. During another meeting on Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, in May 2007, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was to be seated directly across from Rice over dinner, but when he realized that, he walked out. He claimed a female Russian violinist at the dinner was dressed too revealingly and he refused to be there.
"I don't know which woman he was afraid of, the woman in the red dress or the secretary of state," Rice's spokesman Sean McCormack later quipped.
No dinner is scheduled for Tuesday's conference. But there will be a lunch.
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Posted by: MJ | March 31, 2009 12:40 PM
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