Ex-aide says Rice misled
Congress on Iran
By Carol Giacomo, Diplomatic Correspondent
02/15/07 - -- 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
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
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 inevitable.
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
"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 repeatedly."
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
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 exist.
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
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