Obama failed to renew relations with Iran

Updated: 2012-10-28 21:15


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JERUSALEM - US President Barack Obama sought to restore diplomatic ties with Iran shortly after coming into office, in a bid to peacefully curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions, the Israeli Ma'ariv daily reported Sunday, citing Western diplomats.

According to the report, efforts to gradually re-establish bilateral ties, which were cut off following the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979, were launched in the summer of 2009. Reaching out to countries with which Washington has no official relations is part of Obama's overall plan to revamp US foreign policy.

Western diplomats, speaking with Ma'ariv on condition of anonymity, said that American envoys held at least two clandestine meetings with their Iranian counterparts to this end, with Israel objecting to the move.

One of the meetings was reportedly between US Deputy Secretary of State, William Burns, and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, who met on the sidelines of discussions between the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN security council plus Germany), and the Islamic Republic in Geneva in October 2009.

According to the report, the US side suggested initially establishing "offices of interests" (the lowest cooperation level between states), which would be followed by opening embassies in Washington and Tehran and reinstating full diplomatic relations.

The Iranian side, fearing that normalizing ties with the United States could potentially harm the administration, rejected the offer as well as a deal put on the table by the P5+1 in which Tehran would hand over most of its low-enriched uranium to a third party in return for nuclear fuel rods enriched to 20 percent, the report said.

The disclosure follows a report in The New York Times earlier in October that Washington has recently sought to launch direct discourse with Tehran, with one of the P5+1 members conveying the message to Iran.

The White House flatly dismissed the report. Last week, it issued a statement saying that there are no agreements with Iran now, but negotiations between the two countries are being considered.