Report: White House criticizes envoy over Iran

By Xinhua

Washington : The White House has expressed anger about an appearance in which U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad sat beside the Iranian foreign minister at a panel of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Saturday, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

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Khalilzad was still in Europe and could not be reached for comment. His spokesman, Richard A. Grenell, characterized Khalilzad’s appearance beside Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as “just a multilateral conversation with the moderator.”

“There was no separate meeting or separate conversation or handshake with the Iranian foreign minister,” Grenell was quoted as reporting.

But White House officials were angry about the episode, the report said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal administration affairs.

The in-fighitng reflects continuing disagreements within the Bush administration about how to deal with Iran, and just where to draw the line on engaging its nemesis, particularly when the administration’s Iran policy appears to be in disarray.

Many State Department officials say privately that they think the administration should directly engage Iran, and without preconditions, a view that is not shared by the White House.

The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran since 1980, and the Bush administration has limited its official high-level dealings with Iran to discussions about Iraq, primarily in Baghdad.