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(photo credit: AP)
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.