Rice, al-Maliki avoid each other as tension rises over US security firm

September 23, 2007 03:23

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki kept a polite distance as they attended a group meeting and avoided discussion of a Baghdad shootout involving guards from a US company protecting American diplomats. With tensions soaring over the September 16 incident, Rice and al-Maliki chose not to speak directly at a United Nations gathering Saturday at which they were among senior diplomats and officials from Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, weighing future assistance to Iraq. Neither Rice nor al-Maliki brought up the matter in the broader talks, according to David Satterfield, the US State Department's coordinator for Iraq, who said testily that the two also did not meet separately on the sidelines and that the incident had not been on the agenda. It was not immediately clear when the last time Rice and al-Maliki have been in such close proximity and not spoken face-to-face. Satterfield told reporters after the meeting that Rice had already spoken by phone with al-Maliki about the matter.

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