Iran General NewsU.S. says Rice not expecting to meet Iranian and...

U.S. says Rice not expecting to meet Iranian and Syrian

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ImageReuters: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice does not expect to meet with her counterparts from foes Iran and Syria at an international conference on Iraq in Stockholm this week, her spokesman said on Tuesday.

ImageWASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice does not expect to meet with her counterparts from foes Iran and Syria at an international conference on Iraq in Stockholm this week, her spokesman said on Tuesday.

"She'll have probably a series of other meetings on the side," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. "But I don't expect either of those to be on her agenda," he said of foreign ministers from Iran and Syria.

Nearly 100 delegations and up to 600 political leaders and diplomats from the Arab world, Europe, the United States and Iran are converging on Stockholm on Thursday for a conference on Iraq's development.

A similar meeting in Egypt a year ago was overshadowed by speculation about whether Rice would depart from U.S. policy of avoiding contacts with governments such as Iran and Syria, which the Bush administration has sought to isolate.

Rice met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem on the sidelines of the Egyptian parley, the first contact at that level in more than two years. But she only exchanged pleasantries with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and had no substantial talks with him.

It was uncertain whether Syria's foreign minister or a lower-level official would attend the Stockholm get-together on Thursday, but Iran's Mottaki is expected to be there.

The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 when Iranian students held 52 U.S. citizens hostage. Since then high-level talks between the two countries have been held about strategic issues such as Afghanistan and Iraq, but not at the level of secretary of state.

Rice just last week said the United States would aggressively impose more sanctions on Iran as long as it refused to give up sensitive nuclear work and used the world's financial system for "terrorism."

The Bush administration walked away from high-level contacts with the Syrian government after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in February, 2005. The United States suspects Syria of involvement in the killing, a charge Damascus denies.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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