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Ex-aide says Rice misled U.S. Congress on Iran

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070215/pl_nm/iran_usa_dc;_ylt=AoNgfmhyPgwIGdKx1DqL9PTMWM0F Ex-aide says Rice misled U.S. Congress on Iran By Carol Giacomo,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2007

      Ex-aide says Rice misled U.S. Congress on Iran

      By Carol Giacomo, Diplomatic Correspondent 33 minutes

      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Controversy over a possible
      missed U.S. opportunity for rapprochement with
      Iran grew on Wednesday as former aide accused
      Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of misleading
      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.

      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."

      Rice's spokesman denied she misled Congress and
      reiterated that she did not see the proposal.

      Separately, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns
      warned Iran it risked further U.N. and other sanctions
      if it did not halt uranium enrichment as the
      U.N. Security Council demanded.

      He stressed there was still time for diplomacy before
      Iran reached a critical point in its nuclear
      capability and said conflict with Iran was not

      Washington remains patient and committed to
      negotiations with Tehran and its carrot-and-stick
      approach with other major powers is influencing Iran's
      internal debate, Burns told the Brookings Institution
      think tank.

      Leverett, speaking at a conference hosted by the New
      America Foundation think tank, said the 2003 overture
      "was a serious proposal" for a comprehensive agenda
      for U.S.-Iranian rapprochement.

      "The Bush administration up to and including Secretary
      Rice is misleading Congress and the American public
      about the Iran proposal," he said.

      Testifying before a U.S. Congress committee last week,
      Rice, said about Leverett's previous public comments
      on the Iranian proposal: "I don't know what Flynt
      Leverett's talking about."

      She faulted him for not telling her, "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

      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 U.S.
      administration has been forced to deny it plans
      military action against Tehran.

      Leverett said Rice should apologize for calling his
      competence into question.

      He said he had left the National Security Council,
      which advises the president on security issues, in
      March 2003 before the Iranian proposal was received.
      He returned to the CIA where he previously worked and
      soon after left government. Hence, he was not in a
      position to make this case directly to Rice, he said.

      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.

      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.

      According to a copy of the proposal posted on The
      Washington Post Web site and cited by Leverett, it
      contains considerable detail about approaching issues
      of central interest to the United States and Iran.

      This included an end to Iran's support for anti-
      Israel militants and acceptance of Israel's right to

      It carried a cover letter from Guldimann, who said the
      proposal was approved by Iran's supreme religious
      leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, and then-President
      Mohammed Khatami.
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