Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) welcomed South African Foreign Minister Noksazana Dlamini-Uma (search) to her office Friday saying, "South Africa and the United States are partners in many ways."

Reporters and photographers were not allowed to remain after a picture-taking session in Rice's office, so there was no way of knowing what issues they would discuss, although Rice said within earshot that Africa and the Middle East were on the agenda.

Democracy advcoates in Zimbabwe claimed Thursday that South African President Thabo Mbeki (search) has betrayed them by endorsing an upcoming presidential election in spite of arrests of opposition politicians and laws that put the army in charge of polling stations.

Reporters were barred from asking Rice and the South African foreign minister any questions.