| What’s cooking' MacKay and Rice (Reuters)
Washington, Sept. 14: In private moments, Condoleezza Rice concedes that being the world’s most famous diplomat can be exasperating. There is a war on terror to fight, a volatile West Asia, an Iran with nuclear ambitions, sectarian strife in Iraq — not to mention endless speculation about her love life.
In the latest demonstration of the perils of being an attractive, articulate, female — and single — Rice, the US secretary of state, returned from an official visit to Canada yesterday with the North American press obsessed with one issue. It was not the number of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.
After spending two days in the company of Peter MacKay, Canada’s handsome, athletic — and single — foreign minister, Rice’s aides were, not for the first time, dismis- sing fevered speculation abo- ut her relationship with a diplomatic counterpart.
“No, there were no candles,” Sean McCormick, a state department spokesman, replied with tired resignation when reporters asked about a working dinner that Rice and MacKay shared on Monday night. “It was a well-lighted [sic] dinner, with electricity-based lighting.” He added that it was hardly an intimate affair, as 14 aides and six security guards also attended.
But such disclaimers did little to end the gossip, especially after Rice admitted during a press conference that she had been introduced to Mac- Kay’s family when she visited his hometown of Stellerton, Nova Scotia.
“Family means a great deal to me,” Rice, 51, said. “They remind you of the things that you do when you were five years old.”
MacKay, 11 years her junior and a member of Stephen Harper’s conservative government, then chipped in: “Something else I’ve learnt about secretary Rice is she loves the co- ol Atlantic breezes here in No- va Scotia, and she left the window open last night.” He had previously declared himself a “fan” of Rice and said that the two share a “chemistry”.
As the collected reporters giggled, Rice added: “The view, the air — I slept so well. This really is a lovely place.”
Later she added: “This has been a lovely trip, Peter.”
MacKay was recently dumped by his girlfriend, the Canadian politician Belinda Stronach, who had been linked to Bill Clinton, the former US President. In April, rumours swirled about Rice and Jack Straw, the former UK foreign secretary.
They, too, enjoyed a genuinely warm and platonic relationship after it emerged that he accepted her offer of the only bed on her official aircraft. Straw and Rice also visited each other’s home towns, Blackpool, and Birmingham, Alabama.