For the past five years, the United States and Iran have been holding "back channel" talks over the Iranian nuclear program and the relations between the two countries, the British daily The Independent reported Monday. The report quoted one of the participants, Thomas Pickering, a former senior US diplomat, as saying that former diplomats and foreign policy experts met with Iranian academics and policy advisers. "Some of the Iranians were connected to official institutions inside Iran," Pickering told The Independent. Although the nuclear issue was "prominent," he said, "we discussed what's going on domestically in both countries and wide-ranging issues." Pickering said that the Bush administration "did not encourage" the talks, but added that "each side kept their officials informed." According to Pickering, the talks were prompted by the fact that US policy regarding Iran was "stuck." He said that preventing Teheran from obtaining a nuclear weapons was "feasible," but only "if governments wish to make it so, technically and financially." "It will take a lot of negotiation," he added.