Zebari was quick to brush aside speculation that his meeting with Benjamin Ben Eliezer, an Iraqi-born Israeli politician, could harbour better Iraqi ties with Israel.

Ben Eliezer beamed a big smile as he and Zebari approached each other outside a conference hall at a Dead Sea resort hosting meetings of the World Economic Forum which both officials are attending.

No politics

"Shlonak?" Ben Eliezer said to Zebari, using the Iraqi greeting for: "How are you."

"I'm fine," Zebari responded in English, adding: "Al-hamdulilah," Arabic for "Thank God."

Zebari, in an elegant Western-style blue suit, and Ben Eliezer in a black one - but both wearing red ties - warmly shook hands as photographers took pictures.

Dahlan (L) hugged and shook
hands with Olmert

Both officials spoke briefly before each went their own way.

The gesture bore "no meaning for this relationship or for the normalisation of ties," Zebari said, adding it was not planned and was "barren of political ramifications".

"We are invited here in Jordan to attend this forum. They are invited to attend the same forum. Therefore, this does not indicate any change concerning the clear and announced policies of the Iraqi government," he told Aljazeera.

Dahlan greeting

In another warm hello, Palestinian civil affairs minister Mohammed Dahlan embraced Israeli Vice-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with a hug and a warm handshake, as Olmert departed early from a panel on the Gaza withdrawal.

Olmert said he was rushing to a meeting with Jordan's King
Abdullah II.

Israel has diplomatic relations only with Jordan, Egypt and Mauritania. But it remains in a cold war state with the rest of the Arab world.

Meetings between Israeli and Arab officials, with the exceptions of the Jordanians, Egyptians and Palestinians, are extremely rare.