WASHINGTON – Setting aside differences on Iraq and other issues, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said farewell to outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at lunch Friday at the State Department.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack conceded that the lunch took place against a background of U.S. bickering with Annan.
"Of course, there were differences," McCormack said. "We all know what those differences are. We have talked very plainly about them. I think Secretary General Annan has talked plainly about them."
Speaking as the lunch was already under way, McCormack said Rice had no plans to use the occasion to debate differences.
Annan underscored his disagreements on Monday in a speech in Missouri. When the U.S. "appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused," he said.
He also made clear his view that the administration should be seeking a political settlement to the strife in Iraq, specifically suggesting a role for Iran and Syria in such a process.
The administration has said it will not reach out to those countries.
McCormack, in comments last Monday after Annan's speech, said that given the nature of the Annan's job, a "lockstep" relationship with the United States on issues of the day is not possible.
In Friday's comments, he said he regretted that Annan did not use the speech to highlight the areas in which the United States and the United Nations have been able to cooperate. Rice alluded to several of these areas recently, citing the Global AIDS Fund, Sudan and ending the war between Israel and Hezbollah, McCormack noted..
Annan's tenure also coincided with public displays of mutual antipathy between his top deputy, Mark Malloch Brown, and U.S. Ambassador John Bolton.
The State Department did not make a guest list at the lunch immediately available.
Former South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon was sworn in on Thursday to replace Annan, who served for 10 years.
President George W. played host at a farewell dinner for Annan on Dec.5