THE second of the regional conferences to discuss the future of Iraq will open tomorrow at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheik. Foreign Minister level representatives are expected from Iraq's neighbouring countries and from permanent members of the UN Security Council. The attendance of Iran, which was confirmed on Sunday, will lead to another bout of speculation about whether US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will say hello to, smile at, shake hands with, or just ignore Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister. I will not rule out that we may encounter one another said Dr Rice in a startling revelation during a series of TV interviews on Sunday. When asked what she would say if an encounter actually led to talks, she replied: If everybody believes a secure Iraq is important, then we need to stop the flow of foreign fighters. We need to stop the help to militias that then go out and kill innocent Iraqis. That reply does not augur well for any discussion between the US and Iran.
Despite all that has happened in the last four years Dr Rice still seems incapable of understanding that to the great majority of Arab states it is the Americans who are the foreign fighters in Iraq and that they have been responsible for the killing of thousands of innocent Iraqis. Until the US mind-set changes to understand, if not to accept, this view little progress will be made.
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