February 6, 2008 / 8:19 AM / 10 years ago

Rice chastises U.S. ambassador over Iran talks

LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mildly chastised her ambassador to the United Nations on Wednesday for joining Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in a panel debate in Davos last month.

Rice summoned Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to the State Department on Monday for him to explain his attendance at the meeting, which irked the White House and was not cleared beforehand. The United States does not have diplomatic ties with Tehran.

“I think everyone agrees that these things should be coordinated and it should have been coordinated,” Rice told reporters traveling with her to London where she will have talks on Afghanistan.

However, she said Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, had not diverted from U.S. policy during the discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, at which Rice had earlier given the keynote address.

“The fact is Zal’s comments, if you read them, could not have been clearer, not just in support but in communicating U.S. policy very clearly. That is the important point. I know Zal very well and I know that he is right there on U.S. policy,” she said.

“I don’t have any doubts about Zal’s loyalty to the policy,” she added, dismissing suggestions that her U.N. ambassador was straying from U.S. policy.

Rice herself has exchanged pleasantries with Iran’s foreign minister at international meetings. Last year, at a conference on Iraq in Egypt, Rice made small talk with Mottaki over ice cream.

However, there has been no significant dialogue between the two nations since the United States introduced sanctions after the storming and occupation of its embassy in Tehran by revolutionary students in November 1979.

Editing by Richard Balmforth

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