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Powell tried to push Iran talks in 2003 and was rebuffed, former official says
Brian Beutler
Published: Wednesday February 14, 2007
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Former Bush National Security Council official also says Rice likely lied about not seeing document

Former Bush National Security Council official Flynt Leverett, speaking on Wednesday at a forum held by the New America Foundation, told a crowd in a Senate office building that in 2003 then-Secretary of State Colin Powell received a “grand bargain” offer from Iran and was rebuffed by the White House, RAW STORY can reveal.

“I know as a fact from multiple sources this went all the way up to Secretary Powell,” Leverett said, citing multiple sources at the State Department and the NSC. “In [Secretary Powell’s] words, he ‘couldn’t sell it at the White House.’”

Leverett said the letter was also delivered to the National Security Council. Rice told Congress last week that she'd never seen it.

“The document went over to the NSC” and “it is unthinkable” that it wouldn’t have gone to then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Leverett asserted. “She owes Congress an apology for saying she had not seen the document.”

"The statements she is making before Congress are not true," Leverett added, noting that Rice almost certainly "knows" they aren't true.

Leverett, who served as the senior director for Middle East affairs on the National Security Council from March 2002 to March 2003, added that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was probably lying when she said she had not seen the offer Iran made, which was channeled through Tim Guldimann, the Swiss ambassador to Iran. The Washington Post printed a pdf of the offer in today's online edition of the paper.

Guldimann told U.S. officials in 2003 that an Iranian proposal for comprehensive talks had been approved by Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, then-President Mohammad Khatami, and then-Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, according to a copy of the cover letter to the Iranian document obtained by the Post.

Yesterday, the State Department played down the significance of Iran's offer.

“This document did not come through official channels but rather was a creative exercise on the part of the Swiss ambassador,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey told the Post. “The last 30 years are filled with examples of individuals claiming to represent Iranian views. We have offered to Iran a chance to sit across the table from us and discuss their nuclear issue and anything else they would like, should they simply, verifiably suspend their uranium-enrichment activities.”

But Leverett disagreed with that interpretation. "It was a serious proposal," Leverett said, "It was not vague."

He went on to defend the Swiss ambassador, saying that Guldimann "was not some flake off the street," but rather, "a serious official" who was doing his job.

More background on Iran's 2003 offer is available at the Post. The story was printed on page A14 of the paper.

Correction: The document was passed on to the National Security Council, not the UN Security Council.