January 29, 2005


Meal from Hell Whets Appetite for US-Iran Clash (Paul Taylor, 1/29/05, Reuters)

Call it the meal from hell.

A World Economic Forum dinner designed to promote dialogue between Iran and the United States on Friday night began with a comic strip series of diplomatic and gastronomic blunders, and ended with a sharp exchange over nuclear weapons.

With Iran's vice-president and foreign minister in the room, the organizers began by announcing they had disinvited Swiss cartoonist Patrick Chappatte, one of the listed panelists, because the issues were too serious.

The star guest, U.S. Senator Joe Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee, was missing. The organizers kept saying he was on his way.

Moderator David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist, apologized for the fact that wine had been served, upsetting the Muslim guests. Waiters cleared the offending glasses.

They also removed the menus since the hotel had planned to serve non-hallal meat, breaching Islamic dietary rules. Even the soup spoons were withdrawn -- erroneously, it transpired.

One participant asked whether different cultures could not tolerate each other's dietary customs. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi responded that tolerance was fine but it did not mean people should not respect each other's religious values.

If wine was served, his delegation could not participate in the meal, he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 29, 2005 9:35 AM
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