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Friday, May 04, 2007

Condi Rice meets with terror's representative

Less than one month after the Bush administration was highly critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for leading a Congressional delegation to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice met this evening with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on the sidelines of a 60-nation conference on Iraq that is taking place in Sharm-el-Sheikh.

The White House is attempting to downplay the meeting:
In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Snow sought to play down the meeting between Rice and Moallem, calling it a "sidebar conversation," rather than formal bilateral talks. "That was a pull-aside conversation," he said, "about the subject of the conference itself."

Snow told reporters, "You ought to expect the fact that when you are at a conference and the topic is how to help Iraq, you will have conversations about how to help Iraq with all the people who are at that conference." He added, "The one and only topic . . . . in Sharm el-Sheikh is to say it is time now to step forward and support the government of Iraq. . . . And for those who are undermining, they need to stop and they need to begin to support the democratically elected government of Iraq. And it really goes no further than that."

Similarly, Snow said, any conversations between Rice and Iranian officials at the conference "would not be bilateral discussions; they would not be formal negotiations."
Yes and no. On the one hand, the only Iranians with whom Rice will meet is the ones who happen to be sitting at the dinner table who apparently will be nowhere near her. She met with Moallem in a side room. On the other hand, unlike Pelosi, Rice isn't (as far as I know anyway) running around in a hijab and hasn't said that Damascus is 'on the road to peace.' Still, I find this meeting troublesome. Whatever the Syrians do to close their borders with Iraq to terrorists (which is what the Bush administration wants from them) will come at a price. Note that the Washington Post points out that Rice agreed not to discuss Lebanon with Moallem:
Before Thursday's conference, the Lebanese government had sought assurances from the United States that it would not discuss Lebanon in any bilateral meeting with Syria, because it wanted a Lebanese representative to be present for such talks.
I assume that they got those assurances. If Israel sought any such assurances, there is no mention of them and I would assume that they did not get them.


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