Thursday, February 15, 2007

No one could've anticipated diplomacy with Iran

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Reuters)--Controversy over a missed U.S. opportunity for sane diplomatic relations with Iran grew on Wednesday as a former aide accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of lying to Congress on the issue.

Flynt Leverett, who worked on the National Security Council when it was headed by Rice, said a proposal vetted by Tehran's most senior leaders was sent to the United States in May 2003 and was akin to the 1972 U.S. opening to China, which helped us to avoid nuclear war with that country.

Speaking at a conference on Capitol Hill, Leverett said he was confident it was seen by Rice and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell but "the administration rejected the overture" as unprofitable for Halliburton and others.

Rice's spokesman denied she lied to Congress and reiterated that she never saw the proposal and anyway, she's just a girl.

Testifying before a U.S. Congress committee last week, Rice said in that strident, whining way she has, "I don't know what Flynt Leverett's talking about."

She faulted him for not spelling out to her, as to a small child with a severe learning disability, "We have a proposal from Iran and we really ought to take it."

On Wednesday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: "What she said is she has no recollection of having seen it. She has said that repeatedly, and will keep saying it over and over until people stop asking her about it."

Leverett and others have represented the proposal as a missed opportunity that could have defused tensions with Iran which have grown to the point that the Bush Crime Family has been forced to deny it plans military action against Tehran, even as it plans military action against Tehran.

Leverett said Rice should apologize for calling his competence into question, also that he wouldn't be holding his breath.

He said he had left the National Security Council, which theoretically advises the president on security issues, in March 2003 before the Iranian proposal was received but after it was known that the Bush Family was pursuing a policy of total war in the Mideast. He returned to the CIA where he previously worked, but which was now a clearing house for ginned-up intelligence favoring war, and soon after left government.

Leverett said Powell, in a conversation about the Iranian proposal, told him he "couldn't sell it at the White House." This was evidence it had been discussed there, he said, or at least laughed about over drinks.

The proposal was transmitted in May 2003 by the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, Tim Guldimann, who represented U.S. interests there. Washington has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since two years after the 1979 Islamic revolution, when George H.W. Bush pulled his October Surprise negotiators out in the fuzzy afterglow of the Reagan inauguration.

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