Iran General NewsState: U.S. outreach to Iran on track

State: U.S. outreach to Iran on track

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AP: A classical violinist may have undermined the last high-level contact between the United States and Iran, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice isn’t giving up hope that culture can bridge vast U.S.-Iranian differences. Associated Press

By MATTHEW LEE

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – A classical violinist may have undermined the last high-level contact between the United States and Iran, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice isn’t giving up hope that culture can bridge vast U.S.-Iranian differences.

A week after Iran’s foreign minister left a dinner in Egypt where he would have sat opposite Rice – ostensibly storming out because of a Ukrainian violinist’s revealing dress – the secretary will make a symbolic visit to an exhibit of contemporary Iranian art at a Washington gallery on Thursday.

Fourteen of the 30 young artists featured in the “Wishes and Dreams” exhibition are from Iran and got visas to come here under a program that encourages cultural exchanges. Rice plans to meet them at her sneak peek of the show that opens to the public Friday.

“The important thing here is the symbolism of the American secretary of state reaching out and demonstrating for the Iranian people an appreciation for products of Iranian culture,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

“This is a great culture,” he told reporters. “It’s a great country. And we shouldn’t let any of the policy differences between the United States and this Iranian government get in the way of these kinds of exchanges.”

The United States broke diplomatic ties with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

Relations have remained frozen since amid mutual recriminations and animosity, notably over Iran’s nuclear program and alleged Iranian support for insurgents in Iraq.

Still, last week Rice had expected to have at least informal talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, a conservative Muslim, during a group dinner of participants in a conference on Iraq in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik.

Mottaki, however, left abruptly after the performance by the Ukrainian violinist in the low-cut red dress who was providing entertainment at the May 3 event.

If it had taken place, such a conversation would have been the highest-level U.S.-Iran contact since 2004 when former Secretary of State Colin Powell exchanged pleasantries with his Iranian counterpart at a dinner also in Sharm el-Sheik.

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