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US Rejected Iranian Overtures in 2003



Officials in US President George W. Bush's administration turned down a 2003 Iranian offer to begin talks with the US, recognize Israel, and end support of Palestinian terror organizations, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The proposal, which arrived via fax along with a letter of authentication by a Swiss ambassador, was ignored. Reports have circulated in the past that Iran had extended its hand to the US, but the document itself was only recently obtained by the Post - reportedly from Iranian sources - and confirmed as genuine by both American and Iranian officials.

Former administration officials said that in failing to consider the overtures made by Teheran, the US missed an opportunity to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear capability. Flynt Leverett, who was at that time a senior director of the National Security Council, said that the proposal was "a serious effort, a respectable effort to lay out a comprehensive agenda for US-Iranian rapprochement."

"At the time, the Iranians were not spinning centrifuges, they were not enriching uranium," Leverett told the Post.

The document details Iran's aims: ending sanctions, development of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and a recognition of its "legitimate security interests." Iran also agreed to discuss a number of US demands: full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, "decisive action" on terrorism, coordinated efforts in Iraq, cessation of "material support" for terror organizations, and accepting the 2002 Saudi solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"What the Iranians wanted earlier was to be one-on-one with the United States so that this could be about the United States and Iran," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who when Teheran faxed its proposal was serving as Bush's national security adviser. "Now it is Iran and the international community, and Iran has to answer to the international community. I think that's the strongest possible position to be in," Rice said.

Other than Rice, White House and State Department officials refused any further comment on the Iranian offer.

source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1150355517833&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull 20jun2006

Washington Reported to Have
Squandered Opportunity for Talks with Iran

Xinhua (China) 19jun2006


The United States may have missed its best opportunity in 2003 to hold a broad dialogue with Iran, with the result that Washington is now lagging behind the European Union in being able to have direct talk on Tehran's nuclear issues, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

Iran had suggested putting everything on the table, including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iran's support for Palestinian militant groups, said the report, citing a 2003 proposal from Tehran for dialogue with Washington.

The proposal was faxed through the Swiss Embassy and received by the Near East Bureau of the State Department, just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces three years ago, the report said.

But top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax with a cover letter certifying it as a genuine proposal supported by key power centers in Iran.

Several former administration officials say the United States missed an opportunity in 2003 at a time when American strength seemed at its height, according to the report.

"At the time, the Iranians were not spinning centrifuges, they were not enriching uranium," Flynt Leverett, who was a senior director on the National Security Council staff then and saw the Iranian proposal, was quoted as saying.

He described it as "a serious effort, a respectable effort to lay out a comprehensive agenda for U.S.-Iranian rapprochement."

Trita Parsi, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said he obtained the actual document from Iranian sources. The Washington Post said it had confirmed its authenticity with Iranian and former U.S. officials.

The document, the newspaper said, lists a series of Iranian aims for the talks, such as ending sanctions, full access to peaceful nuclear technology and a recognition of its "legitimate security interests."

Iran agreed at the time to put a series of U.S. aims on the agenda, including full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, "decisive action" against terrorists, coordination in Iraq, ending "material support" for Palestinian militias and accepting the Saudi initiative for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The document also laid out an agenda for negotiation, with possible steps to be achieved at a first meeting and the development of negotiating road maps on disarmament, terrorism and economic cooperation.

The newspaper quoted Parsi as saying that the U.S. victory in Iraq frightened the Iranians because U.S. forces had routed in three weeks an army that Iran had failed to defeat during a bloody eight-year war.

source: http://english.people.com.cn/200606/19/eng20060619_275158.html 20jun2006

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