Telegraph – Condi and Sergei air differences over an open microphone

The story:

Condoleezza Rice, America’s secretary of state, is famed for her sang froid but one person seems to be able to rattle her – Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister.

The pair are known to have goaded each other on several occasions, reflecting the souring relationship between Washington and Moscow.

However, a candid conversation between the pair was revealed to the world when a technician failed to switch off an audio feed during a closed-door lunch at a meeting of foreign ministers in Moscow.

For 20 minutes on Wednesday night, journalists were treated to often-tetchy exchanges about Iraq, interspersed with the tinkle of glasses and the scraping of cutlery.

Sometimes the tone smacked of the playground as the two bickered over a new US-backed aid programme for Iraq.

Mr Lavrov tried to explain that the international community should not become involved in Iraq’s political process – something that Miss Rice opposes – but should be involved “in support of the political process”.

“What does that mean?” Miss Rice demanded.

After a long pause, Mr Lavrov replied with a sneer: “I think you understand.”

“No, I don’t,” she shot back. As Mr Lavrov refused to lend Russian support to the new aid programme, Miss Rice grew increasingly irritated.

“I just want to register that I think it’s a pity that we can’t endorse something that’s been endorsed by the Iraqis and by the UN,” she said. “But if that’s how Russia sees it, that’s fine.”

The punch line:

Perhaps wisely, the other ministers – including Margaret Beckett, Britain’s Foreign Secretary – barely spoke during the dinner.

Oh that kills me.