Friday, May 4, 2007

Conference Ends; Syria "Breakthrough"

UPDATE: Check out the new blog covering the Mid East: Outsider On The Inside

The Iraq security conference ended today, with no significant details to report other than yesterdays talks between the Syrian FM and US Secretary of State. Day two of the conference focused on security, with Al-Maliki urging Iraq's neighbors to stop the flow of terrorists into his country.

The Arab press reacted negatively to the conference, according to this BBC article, dismissing the conference's significance and squaring the blame on President Bush.

US-Iranian relations did not improve as a result of this conference, with only low-level talks being held. The Iranian FM stepped up accusations of the United States in Iraq on the second day of the conference:
Speculation had mounted since Thursday's start of the meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could hold historic talks with her Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki.

But at a meeting designed to enhance international cooperation on Iraq security, Mottaki described US troops as "terrorists" and lashed out at Washington over the continued detention of Iranian officials seized in January.

"To create a safe haven for those terrorists who try to turn Iraqi territory into a base for attacking Iraq's neighbors should be condemned," the Iranian foreign minister said.

"Mr. Mottaki was referring to countries which, like the United States, carry out acts of terrorism in Iraq," a spokesman for the Iranian delegation at the conference said. "When the United States arrests five Iranian diplomats in Iraq, it is an act of terrorism," he said on condition of anonymity.
The Iranian FM also refused to attend a dinner, at which he would've been seated close to Secretary Rice, because of a "revealing dress":
Hopes of the highest-level direct talks between Iran and the United States since the foes broke off ties in 1980 soured when Mottaki walked out of a dinner attended by Rice Thursday.

Mottaki claimed that he was offended by the revealing dress that the venue's Russian violinist was wearing, said US officials, who suggested that his discomfort may have had more to do with a table layout that left him directly facing Rice.

"I am not sure which woman he was afraid of: the woman in the red dress or the secretary of state," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

There was a meeting between Iranian and U.S "experts", although no significant details on the meeting are available yet.

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