SHARM EL SHEIK, Egypt — Secretary of State Rice met yesterday with Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Moallem at a high-level diplomatic summit in Egypt, while Iranians at the conference refused to meet Americans for talks, according to U.S. officials.
Discussions between the Americans and the Syrians were described by officials from both countries as narrow but constructive.
"I didn't lecture him, and he didn't lecture me," Ms. Rice said after the meeting, according to the Associated Press. "I would say it was professional. It was businesslike."
Speculation about whether U.S. officials would meet Syria — and especially Iran — has overshadowed summit discussions about Iraq, where a civil war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Ministerial representatives from 30 countries are in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik to address violence in Iraq and to announce multibillion-dollar economic help for Iraq in aid and debt forgiveness.
U.S. and Iraqi officials have made much of a smattering of pledges by other countries to forgive Iraqi debt. But Iraq has not been paying off its debt since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
And debt forgiveness, too, appears to have become a sectarian battlefield, with oil-rich Sunni countries demanding more protections for the Sunni minority in Iraq before they are willing to write off the money.