Blair, Rice meet for informal talks

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Monday night with British Prime Minister Tony Blair for informal talks, a government spokeswoman said.

Rice returned to Britain after an unscheduled two-day visit to Iraq with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. The meeting with Blair was originally planned for Sunday afternoon, but was rescheduled after Straw and Rice flew to Baghdad.

The spokeswoman, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy, said the meeting was very informal. Topics on the agenda included Iraq, Iran, the Middle East and Russia.

Rice arrived in Britain on Friday, as Straw's guest, for a tour of Liverpool and Blackburn, 220 miles (355 kilometers) northwest of London. She met with protests on each stop of the two-day visit, reports AP.

According to Washington Post, a sly smile began to form on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's face as British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw explained Monday why they had the authority to put pressure on the Iraqi politicians to end their bickering and form a government. The massive investment of money and manpower by the United States and Britain, he said, gave them "a right to say, 'We've got to be able to deal with Mr. A, Mr. B or Mr. C. We can't deal with Mr. Nobody.'"

Rice broke in, "Jack, I'm sure we'd be all right with Miss A or Miss B or Miss C, too, right?" As reporters burst out laughing, Straw put a hand against his face and recovered. "Yeah, we would. . . ."

"Who knows?" Rice suggested. "Let's leave it open."

"I was not being gender-specific," Straw said in mock protest. "Don't report me, please."

Now playing: the "Condi and Jack Show," in its fifth straight day.

Combining hard-nosed foreign initiatives with tourism and local politicking, the diplomatic duo have bounced across Europe and the Middle East, personifying the "special relationship" between the two countries.

On Thursday, they were in Berlin, jawboning the Russians and Chinese on Iran's nuclear program. Rice took a brief detour to Paris and ended up that same day in Liverpool, England. On Friday and Saturday, Straw squired her around the former Beatles haunt and the town of Blackburn, which he represents in Parliament.

They then flew secretly together to Iraq, making a dramatic two-day visit here to prod Iraqi politicians into action. On Monday, they ended their journey by flying back to London for dinner with Prime Minister Tony Blair.


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