Reuters: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will attend a meeting of Iraq’s neighbors in Egypt next month and is open to direct talks with Iran over Iraq, the State Department said on Friday. WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will attend a meeting of Iraq’s neighbors in Egypt next month and is open to direct talks with Iran over Iraq, the State Department said on Friday.
Rice will visit Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh from May 1 to 4 for a meeting of Iraq’s neighbors as well as major powers to discuss Iraq, said a State Department statement announcing Rice’s travel plans.
Iran attended a previous neighbors’ conference in Baghdad last month and the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, had brief discussions with the Iranian delegate — as well as another U.S. adversary, Syria — at that meeting.
Asked whether Rice planned to do the same in Egypt, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack did not rule it out but said he did not know whether Iran would attend anyway.
“She, obviously, as secretary, has latitude to choose targets of opportunity,” McCormack said when asked whether Rice would be open to bilateral talks with Iran or Syria.
The United States accuses Iran of destabilizing Iraq and U.S. officials say Rice would likely limit any discussions to this. Iran denies meddling in Iraq.
Washington is at loggerheads with Iran over its nuclear program and Rice has made clear she will deal with Iran on this topic only when it suspends sensitive uranium enrichment work.
The United States has spearheaded U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, which Washington and others say is aimed a building a nuclear bomb and Iran says is for peaceful power purposes.
While in Egypt, Rice will also attend a meeting to launch the International Compact with Iraq, a reconstruction plan that provides financial, political and technical support to Baghdad in return for political, security and economic reforms.