The U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe sparked a diplomatic row Thursday night when he walking out of an official banquet in honor of British opposition leader Neil Kinnock.

Ambassador James Rawlins left the banquet room after Kinnock made a speech denouncing South Africa's apartheid policy of racial segregation and a Zimbabwean official invited a Cuban envoy to speak.As Rawlins walked out of the room, Zimbabwean Parliament Speaker Didymus Mutasa said from the podium, "I deeply resent this discourtesy by the American ambassador, and I must say so publicly and openly."

Rawlins later downplayed the incident. "People were standing up, and at that point I thought the banquet had ended," he said. "I thought that after Kinnock had spoken, the evening was over."