Was she beautiful, or the devil in a red dress?

Published May 5, 2007

SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt - Larissa Abramova, a Ukrainian violinist, thought her red dress was lovely. But it apparently offended Iran's foreign minister so much he boycotted a gala dinner attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Abramova said Friday she was wearing a red, sleeveless dress with matching gloves coming up past the elbow and a red scarf draped over the low-cut front. She chose the ensemble especially for Thursday's dinner for dozens of the world's top diplomats at a hotel where she plays nightly because she knew she would "look beautiful in it, " she said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit had hoped it would be a chance for Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Rice to have an informal talk on the sidelines of an international conference on Iraq. A place had been set for him across from Rice at the dinner.

But Mottaki stayed away from the dinner. Through a translator, Mottaki said there were problems with "Islamic standards" at the gathering. A U.S. official with Rice's delegation said Mottaki complained to the Egyptians that the hotel violinist was dressed too revealingly.

Abramova said she could not believe her dress was to blame.