Sunday, January 21, 2007

Report: Cheney Rejected Iran Concessions

LONDON -- An Iranian offer to help the United States stabilize Iraq and end its military support for Hezbollah and Hamas was rejected by Vice President Dick Cheney in 2003, a former top State Department official told the British Broadcasting Corp.

The U.S. State Department was open to the offer, which came in an unsigned letter sent shortly after the American invasion of Iraq, Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, told BBC's Newsnight in a program broadcast Wednesday night. But, Wilkerson said, Cheney vetoed the deal.
"We thought it was a very propitious moment" to strike a deal, Wilkerson said. "But as soon as it got to the White House, and as soon as it got to the vice president's office, the old mantra of 'We don't talk to evil' ... reasserted itself."

A spokesman for the State Department said Thursday he wasn't aware of any letter from the Iranians to the U.S. government in 2003.

"Far as I know, there's never been an offer from the Iranian Government on those kinds of concerns," said Tom Casey, the state department's deputy spokesman.

Wilkerson said that, in return for its cooperation, Tehran asked Washington to lift sanctions and to dismantle the Mujahedeen Khalq, an Iranian opposition group which has bases in Iraq.

Iran also offered to increase the transparency of its nuclear program, according to Wilkerson.

Wilkerson has been a frequent critic of the Bush administration in general and Cheney in particular, holding the vice president responsible for the mistreatment of detainees and the failure of Iraq's postwar planning.

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