Teheran Talks a Challenge for Albright

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The sight of ranking delegations from a number of U.S. allies being glad-handed in Teheran Monday was a troubling spectacle for Madeleine Albright — and U.S. policy on the Middle East. Iran trumpeted the arrival of representatives from the 55 member states of the Islamic Conference — including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Egypt and other U.S. allies — for a summit which opens on Tuesday was heralded by Iran as a victory over Washington’s policy of isolating Teheran. Many of the same moderate Arab governments had stood up Albright last month at an economic summit in Doha in Qatar in order to express their displeasure at Washington’s performance in the Mideast peace process. Many observers believe this gathering will reinforce calls within the administration for a rethink of Mideast and Gulf policies: The recent Gulf crisis showed not only that Washington has little support in Europe and the Arab world for its Iran and Iraq policies but also that President Clinton’s perceived failure to press Benjamin Netanyahu to comply with Israeli-Palestinian accords has made Arab governments leery of signing on with U.S. initiatives. Whatever the outcome of this week’s summit, the guest list alone is enough to confirm that Albright and her department have their work cut out for them.